Lance Ralston| Calvary Chapel In Oxnard
Traditionally, this time of year sees people who don’t usually attend church at least consider attending a service the Sunday before Christmas, or on Christmas Eve. In that service, they’re usually treated to a reading of the story of Jesus’ birth from the Gospel of Luke. It is a good tale, and all the better because it is true.
Rarely read this time of year is the Apostle Paul’s take on the birth of Christ found in Philippians chapter two. The church at Philippi was doing well with one hiccup Paul knew if wasn’t addressed could prove disastrous. Some of the members were at odds with each other. He wrote to call them to mend the rift and restore their unity. He does so by reminding them of the example of Jesus. In arguably one of the loftiest thoughts ever to pass through a human mind, expressed in some of the most eloquent words ever penned, Paul wrote –
Let this mindset be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in essence God, did not consider equality with God something to cling to, but He utterly emptied Himself, taking the role and place of a slave, and became human, like us. As a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient all the way to death, and such a death as a crucifixion. [Philippians 2:5-8, paraphrased]
The surprise of Christmas isn’t that Jesus came. The arrival of the Messiah was long foretold and eagerly anticipated by First Century Jews. They hoped for a king, a political leader to replace corrupt officials, a military champion who’d liberate them from the Rome’s oppressive heel. The surprise wasn’t that Jesus came, but how. The circumstances of his birth were sketchy from the start. His parentage was under a cloud of scandal. His birth in less than desirable surroundings. His first crib, a feeding trough. The first visitors to celebrate his birth weren’t family and friends, but a dubious band of sketchy shepherds.
If we were staging the arrival of the promised Savior, we’d build a special hospital staffed with the best medical personnel who did nothing that day but prepare. We’d assemble a symphony orchestra, led by the best conductor. We’d erect elaborate choral risers and hire a thousand voice choir to sing history’s most glorious rendition of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. All so Mary and Joseph could hear as she brought forth Jesus into a sterile room. We’d wrap him not is swaddling clothes but in a plush white blanket with a gold brocade edge and set him in a specially constructed armored crib.
That’s what we’d do. Surprising then to observe what God did. He could have done all that, and more. But He went the opposite direction. That He did sets an inescapable question before us. Why? Why was the birth of Jesus into such humble circumstances? Why would God the Son rise from His throne of eternal glory, divest Himself of all of His rights and privileges as God, and step into the womb of Jewish teenager? The Word of God, reduced to the inarticulate cooing of a newborn.
The answer is Love. Love for you. God loves us so much, He gave His only Son, so that anyone who trusts in Him would not perish, but would instead have eternal life. [John 3:16]
Jesus came in such a way no one would be intimidated or assume he couldn’t relate to them. Let the surprise of how Jesus came renew your sense of wonder in the presence of the God who still loves you.
Lance Ralston Is the Founding and Lead Pastor Calvary Chapel in Oxnard. He is the author of “The Place Of Faith In Shaping Political Views”.
2 Timothy 1:12