Friday, December 19, 2008

The Horror of Christmas...

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

Philippians 2:3-17

(back to bb)
An amazing passage. Note the clear connection between Christ's emptying of Himself and the application to us. I find this passage incredibly challenging and humbling. The "Therefore" connects His "making Himself nothing" ("emptying Himself" in another translation) with how we should be because of his emptying & God's exaltation of Him.

Ponder that phrase: made Himself nothing.

Imagine the throneroom of heaven, with Jesus Christ in all of His glory seated at the right hand of His Father, being celebrated by the angels and the patriarchs from Old Testament days. And then, it happens...He stands up, removes His crown, takes off His robe, looks around one more time, looks His Father in the eye, and begins descending...all the way to a woman's womb.

For 33 or so years of earth time, the throne at the right hand of the Father is empty.

It gets worse.

At the end of those 33 years, He is separated from His Father by a greater distance than that from heaven's throneroom to the middle east. There, on a cross in a hill, God the Son is tortured to death by some of those whose hopeless estate prompted His leaving the throneroom in the first place. "My God, My God,...why have You forgotten me?!" The very essence of "made Himself nothing." Separation beyond any we can imagine. My sins...your sins...the sins of all humanity...our own hopeless estate....That is what caused the godhead to be separated first by the amazine distance between heaven's throneroom and earth, and then by the far, far greater distance between total holiness & perfection and complete sinfulness & depravity.

"For our sake He made Him to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."
2 Cor 5:21

And there, ladies & gents, is the horror of the Christmas story. And its great glory. The angels sang...the shepherds marveled...Mary pondered & treasured...and Jesus was born. Under a shadow. Not just of candlelight flickering on a cave wall, but the shadow of a cross. And a grave. Born to die.

But now...His tomb is empty. His seat there in the celestial throneroom is occupied once again. The next time He leaves, He will come in triumphant, eternal victory.

The question of the season seems to be so what? Why should we, or anyone, care about all of this?

Paul gives an answer in the latter part of the passage from Philippians 2. Therefore... To conclude, how's your "therefore" doing? Need to tune up your "do nothing from rivalry or conceit"? How about your "looking to the interest of others"? What about your worship? (not just at a church Christmas musical...but your worship!) And that "grumbling & complaining"?

Some great news: it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. You & I don't have to grit our teeth, & bow up to get this done. Which is good news, as it turns out...because we can't bow up, grit our teeth, & get it done. Again, it is God who works in you...

As I say, it is a terribly convicting & challenging passage. And it absolutely is what the horror and the glory of Christmas is all about. As Christmas approaches, let the awesome wonder--and horror--of Philippians 2 soak into your soul. And let God work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure...


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