Wednesday, December 14, 2016

God Stooped to the Lowest of Low



Christmas is a time for exchanging gifts, among other things. This usually results in a present-by-present mental challenge of matching the gift given with the gift to be received. We go to great lengths to make gifts appropriate, while not too extravagant or too petty. We mean well in doing this. But, is this really celebrating Christmas? Don’t worry, I am not about to propose over-giving to everyone, even thought there is nothing wrong with that. I am, however, challenging whether or not our ritual of exchanging gifts actually reflects what we are celebrating.

Have you ever wondered why it is that we give gifts at Christmas time? Do you even focus deeply on why we celebrate Christmas? Do you know why “Christ” is the first syllable in the word “Christmas”? We celebrate Christmas because Christ gave us the greatest gift ever given – Himself. John 3:16 begins, “For God so loved the world that He gave...” This is why we are inspired to give. But, what kind of giving should result from such inspiration? What does our giving say about how inspired we are? Does our celebration of Christmas honor the Advent that we are meaning to celebrate? Are we mimicking the giving of Jesus or are we pleasing self?

Imagine for a moment that you are God, the all-powerful Creator of the entire universe. Then imagine that your pathetically weak creation rebels against you, damning themselves to corruption and death. Then, imagine that you desire to rescue them. How would you do it? Would you just wave your hand and reset everyone? Would you descend to Earth in visible glory to get their attention? Would you display for them magnificent power for all to see? We have all heard the Christmas story many times. But, even still, I doubt any of us would choose to reduce ourselves to the lowliest of low, take on their vulnerable flesh in the most vulnerable baby form, and be born in a filthy village among livestock in a stable only to be placed in an animal feeding trough as a newborn. Be honest – you would not choose this. So, why did God give Himself in this way?

God is not like us and His ways are not like ours. In Isaiah 55:8-9, God reminds us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We often forget that God is not like us. And, in many ways, He is the opposite of us in that before He adopts us, we are His enemies (Colossians 1:21). His image is the primary extent to which we are alike. And, that is too little to go on for comparisons to Him. 

The gift of Christ, God in babe, amid the stench of animal dung, we may never fully understand. And, this is proof that there is a God, and Jesus is He. In Christianity, we have the only God who came in such a way as to reach all manner of mankind. By this measure, all other gods are distant counterfeits, as all other professed gods interacted with man like we would - like a man or non-god would. That is proof positive that these gods were invented in the minds of man. Only the true God would love in such a radical extent and in such a radical way - defying all human mental calculations. He became the lowest among us in order to save the lowest among us. The historical fact of the lowly incarnation of Jesus proves His claim to be God.

You see, if we were God, we might have come in a way that only a certain class of people are rescued. That does not mean we are bigoted. It just means that we are selfish (like the counterfeit gods). How far would you go to rescue the homeless? How far would you go to rescue those who have only a stable to sleep in or less? How far would you go to bring food to those who would not hesitate to draw near to an animal feeding trough? How far would you go to rescue those in the most rural and poor villages that are so impoverished that we know not even about them? Would you arrive in a capital city in pomp? Well, that is Exhibit A that you are not God. God came to rescue the least of us as first among us. And, to do so, He stooped as low as He could possibly stoop (Philippians 2). And, He did so in such a gloriously honoring way.

Remember that Jesus did not come only to save us and then leave us. He came to save us and make us new by then living through us forever. His rising becomes our rising. His coming to take on flesh is merely a symbol of how today for every Christian he lives inside of us, making us new. He could have come, saved us and left. But, His mission, His gift was so much more. He gave Himself to make all things new, primarily us. And, not just the fairest among us, but for all of us, especially those that society sees as the least among us. This truly is the most amazing and miraculous gift that is beyond awe-inspiring.

Lastly, God gave Himself this way not only to rescue and renew us. He also did this to model how we are supposed to give. I must confess that as I type this, I am convicted. My gifts this Christmas are far less sacrificial than is worthy of celebrating God’s sacrificial gift to me. My gifts are far less radical in how far into the depths of humanity they seek to lovingly reach. My gifts are wrapped in fine paper and bows meant for the attention of family under a beautiful tree. But, God chose a far more humble wrapping destined for hanging on a far less lovely tree, where attention would hardly ever be sought.

In conclusion, this Christmas, celebrate Christmas by giving the gift of Christmas. Give to those in deepest need from the excesses of your abundance. Give the gospel of the Christmas story to everyone who might listen. And, here is a hint: it is the most humble or least among us who are willing to listen. The harvest of the humble is plentiful, but the workers are few. Celebrate Christmas because of Jesus, and like Jesus, and for Jesus. In fact, when we are given the greatest gifts, our knee-jerk reaction is inspiration to give a gift back. Whenever we receive a gift, we desire to return the favor. That is a gift exchange. At Christmas, we celebrate the fact that in Jesus Christ, we have been given the absolute greatest gift ever given – and this gift was given by Jesus Christ to us. So, how do we exchange a gift back to such a giver of such an amazing gift? How do we exchange gifts with Jesus? In Matthew 25:40, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” That was Jesus’ personal Christmas wish list. Therefore, just like Jesus came as a gift to the least first, as we today give of ourselves to what society sees as the least of us, we are giving back to Jesus Himself. May this inspire that your greatest gift this Christmas be the gift of your love to those most in need of it. After all, since the greatest gift God gave us was Himself, our gift to him should be a like exchange.


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