Non-Traditional Christmas Passages December 22 2017

(Part of BCF’S blog series: “Society, Selflessness, and the Scriptures")

We love reading the passages this time of year about Jesus’ birth, from the prophetic ones like Isaiah 9:6, to the actual accounts of how it happened in Matthew Chapter 1 and Luke Chapters 2 and 3.  Handel’s Messiah brings it to life musically, and we often listen to it at least once in the Christmas season. It is an amazing, wonderful story!

There are some other passages, though, that are not generally thought of as Christmas passages and yet are powerful statements of Jesus’ birth.  These passages don’t have shepherds; no angels; no manger scene; no donkey or Mary and Joseph.  Just Jesus.  They are familiar passages, but I particularly like them because they speak about Jesus’ character as related to His birth.

The Gospel of John opens with a simple but profound statement:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God (John 1:1-2).

The language in the first part of John 1 is a bit mysterious, because we don’t exactly know what or who John is referring to as “the Word.”  Then the most amazing statement of all is our first “non-traditional” Christmas passage:

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

This is like the “Eureka!” verse of Christmas.  Wow!  Jesus, being with God and part of the triune God from the very beginning, came to earth in the form of a human body.  Fully God, and fully man.  I am amazed, and grateful, every time I read through John 1:1-14, because it reminds me that Son of God lowered Himself to extend a hand to us humans to receive Him so that we could believe and become part of God’s family (verse 12).  It all makes so much sense, now, though we will never fully comprehend the magnitude of His coming to earth in a fleshly body.  Some received Him, but many did not (verse 11).  And so it remains today.

The other “non-traditional” Christmas passage, out of Philippians 2, helps us see deeper into the character of Jesus, as it relates to His birth.

Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-8).

There it is again:  Jesus has always existed as God, but for a time, was “made in the likeness of men.”  This passage is an absolutely remarkable description of what it was like for Jesus to be God, and yet by a deliberate choice, to take the form of a little baby and become the man that would sacrifice His life for us on the cross.

This passage beautifully ties together Jesus’ birth and His crucifixion.  It helps us, in some small way, to have a better appreciation of what Christ, being God, gave up to not only become like us, but then even to die for us. He didn’t have to do it, but chose to do it out of love.  This is the choice that the Father used to put Jesus in the manger that we sing about every Christmas.  It is also the choice that the Father used to put Jesus on the cross.

Romans 5, verses 6 thru 8 state: “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will hardly die for a righteous man, though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Jesus didn’t come to earth to congratulate us for having been great human beings.  Rather, He purposely chose to endure abuse, persecution, humiliation to die for the people that didn’t deserve it: the ones who were still helpless, the needy, the stubborn, the sheep who have gone astray.  Choose your metaphor. The ones who have blown it for the 500th time.  That would be us.  And that’s what brings us to worship Him – the One who knew before He became man that He would need to obediently humble Himself to the point of death.  No wonder that Paul, the writer of the letter to the Philippians, could say a few verses before this that “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)

Jesus, when He made that choice to take on the form of a man, knew there would be a last supper.  He knew there would be a betrayal.  He knew there would be a cross.  He knew He would take on the sin of the world.  But He came to earth anyway.  Pretty amazing.  No human could make up this story line.

And this is the example Paul gives us when he says in Philippians 2, verse 5 – “have this attitude in yourselves.”  Jesus had reason to boast, but He humbled Himself.  And verse 9 reminds us that “Therefore also God highly exalted Him ….”  On the other hand, we have no reason to boast, and yet are inclined to exalt ourselves.

But by God’s grace, He also gives us as believers the ability to make the same types of choices Jesus made:  not valuing our own rights as much as we do, but being the type of servant Jesus demonstrated Himself to be.  We’ll never fully get there, of course, this side of heaven.  But this is a life-transforming truth, demonstrated by Jesus, that it is the way to true life.  God bless you and your family in this Christmas season.

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Steve Smith