Settle yourself into prayer and get ready to reflect on the Word of
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he
was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something
to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,
he humbled himself and became obedient
to the point of death — even death on a cross.
Ah! It’s Christmas Eve! I’ve waited a long time for this day. I may not get everything I wanted for Christmas, but there is always something wonderful and transcendent about this day! Wars and rumors of war might unsettle us, but for these precious few hours we celebrate and sing of God’s love poured out in the lowly manger.
Marshall McLuhan was an iconic media theorist remembered most for his famous dictum “the medium is the message”. By that McLuhan meant that the way we say something, the medium, is a message in itself. Just the manner in which we communicate speaks volumes. Ask anyone in love! Saying “I love you!” with a big hug and red roses sends a very different message from texting it.
Thus the Bible makes much ado about the medium by which God goes about saying He loves us. Think about God’s medium of Christ’s humble birth to say how much He loves us! God presents Himself to us, the Omnipotent One, who stoops to make Himself a helpless baby! Here He lies vulnerable! Weak! Poor! Defenseless! Humble! He is ready to absorb all of the evil and suffering of Creation to save us!
Marshall McLuhan was also a man of deep Christian faith awakened to God’s message of humble love. He looked at what is communicated in the Christmas story and concluded: “In Jesus Christ, there is no distance or separation between the medium and the message. It’s the one case where we can say that the medium and the message are fully one and the same.” (The Medium and the Light: Reflections on Religion and Media) The Savior’s humble birth in a barnyard manger says it all! It tells us there are no limits to the lengths that God will humble Himself to prove His love for us.
The Sovereign makes Himself powerless! The Infinite shrinks down to an infant. “God does not look at our pain from a distance and send us ‘well wishes’. No, God the Father sent His Son to take on our human flesh, saturate himself in our struggles, and bear our pain.” (John Stott, The Contemporary Christian) God’s medium is surely His message to us.
Even before little Jesus learned to talk, His very life was saying “God does not will to be God without us.” (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/1) He would rather die than live without us! It’s all there in His cradle and His cross! Who can fathom or begin to explain God’s humble love for us? “What is this sublimity of one so lowly, this strength of one so weak, this greatness of one so small?” (Augustine, The Works of St. Augustine, Sermon 373)
A personal tradition I will keep tonight is watching the televised Christmas Eve worship service from the Church of the Holy Nativity in Bethlehem. I am moved watching the service in the church that many believe stands over the simple limestone cave where the Son of God was born. Over the centuries the entry to the Church has been lowered so that today it is called “The Door of Humility”. Any worshipper must bend low in order to enter.
The eternal Son of God bent low on that Christmas to enter into our humanity, so we must bend low to humbly worship Him. If God bent low to become human “then that tells us something about how we might seek after our own fullest humanity – not in quests of power and wealth and fame but in service, solidarity with the despised and rejected, and the willingness to be vulnerable in love.” (William Placher, Narratives of a Vulnerable God)
Jesus knew from experience that which He spoke: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35b). Here is the mind of Christ and the true Christmas spirit! It is in giving that we receive, it is in self-forgetting that we find, it is in humbling ourselves that we are exalted.
- Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” What are some ways you have experienced this?
- How do you sense the Spirit of God, through the Christ Hymn, calling you to “bend low” and humble yourself?
“True humility, however great, does not disquiet or disorder the soul.
It comes with great peace, and great serenity, and great delight…
with a certain sweetness and humility attending it This humility
does not stifle or crush the soul. Rather, it delights the soul
and disposes the soul for the better service of God.”
Teresa of Avila, The Life of Prayer, edited by James Houston