Christmas is about many things, but one of the chief things revealed in the gospel of Christmas is the humility of God.
We don’t often think of humility as an attribute of God. If God is glorious and exalted, we think, He must be haughty and proud and self-centered. We think this way because we would be haughty if we were God.
Fortunately, we’re not God. And the gospel of Christmas reveals a very different God than we imagine. It announces that the eternal Son of God, Creator, Lord, and King of all creation, humbled Himself for our sake, and took the form of a servant.
We are often reluctant to see just how far God humbled Himself, and we are even more slow to grasp how far we must be humbled if we are going to receive the gospel of Christmas. Ask yourself, Would you, like the shepherds and wise men, be willing to worship a baby in a manger? Would you be willing to confess that a weak and helpless baby was the Eternal Son of God? Would you hear the cries of baby Jesus as the human voice of the Word by whom all things were made?
We are willing to embrace the adult Jesus, the strong, shrewd, combative teacher and prophet. But worship a baby? That’s infantile and foolish, and we want to be wise and adult, especially about religion. But we are called to be imitators of God, imitators above all of His humility, and worship the baby in the corncrib.
We are called to be imitators of God, and we are called to imitate God specifically in His humility. This isn’t how we celebrate Christmas. Instead, pride, self-centeredness, greed rule the day. We become surly if we are overlooked on someone’s Christmas list, or if the presents we get are not as nice as the ones we give; we envy those who receive presents that we wanted; we want our own way, and when we don’t get it, we become surly, grumpy, edgy, and generally disagreeable. The day ends with tempers strewn about the floor like discarded wrapping paper.
All the tinsel in the world, all the Christmas lights, all the carefully and colorfully wrapped presents cannot make Christmas Christmas if the humility of God is not celebrated and manifested in our own humility.
To grasp the Christmas gospel and to celebrate it well, we must become little children. After all, when God calls each of us to become like a child, He is not asking us to do any more than He Himself did.
Peter J. Leithart is President of Theopolis.
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