The birth of Christ will be celebrated around the world on Sunday. For many it will be a time of partying and very little thought of the true meaning of Christ’s birth. One aspect of his birth that set the stage for his entire life is the humility that God ordained for the birth as well as the entire life of His Son, the Savior of the world.
He was born into a family that was not wealthy. Joseph was a carpenter and made a humble living. When they went to the temple to bring their offering, he only gave a bird which was allowed for people who were poor.
His mother Mary was an ordinary young girl. When she became pregnant out of wedlock, the locals probably began to ask questions or accuse her of having premarital relationships. Joseph was caught in the middle and people probably thought badly of him because of Mary’s pregnancy.
The birth of Jesus was not in a place anyone would choose to have a baby. The humility of a stable which most likely was simple a cave in the wall was far beneath what a future King would deserve. It was most likely a place where animals were kept. Not a clean place that is depicted in the manger scenes we see at this time of year. It probably was filled with the stench of the animals along with their excrement. A sanitary place fit for a king, it was not. Yet God ordained that he be born in Bethlehem and in a very humble place.
The first to hear of the Saviors birth were shepherds. Shepherds were not viewed as important people. Their job was a low level job, a job most people would never want. Shepherds were the lowest level of society. Shepherds were so despised that they couldn’t even testify in court.But to these outcasts, God through his angels announced to them the birth of Jesus the Messiah. The first visitors of the King were the lowly shepherds who were excited to see him and then tell others about him.
Later the 3 kings came to give their worship and gifts to Jesus. When Herod learned of the new king, he was enraged that his kingdom would be overthrown and thus ordered the death of all males 2 years old or less. As a result Jesus and his parents became refugees who fled to Egypt for their safety. A king becoming a refugee, another sign of the humility of God. He could have commanded his angels to protect him where he was living but instead chose to have his Son flee for his life. Jesus spent the early years of his life as a refugee in hiding, how humbling is that for the Savior and Son of God.
His early years after returning from Egypt were as far as we know just ordinary years of development. He was raised in a poor home and learned the trade of carpentry with his father. At 12, the age of recognition of his manhood, he went with his parents and relatives to the temple. He had a new focus for his life which was being about his heavenly Father’s business. His parents must have been shocked when he gave them this reply. Yet he did not make a public announcement of his true identity but humbly continued to work with his father and live a normal life until he was 30 years old. What must it have been like for Jesus to know his true identity and purpose in coming in human form and not be able to say anything until the time was right? His humanity was firmly established such that when he began his public ministry many questioned how he could be the Messiah when they knew him as a son of Mary and Joseph. His identity was in question throughout his life not only by those who knew him as he grew up but also by the religious leaders. Jesus remained humble throughout his ministry. He did not demand special treatment from those who were with him nor did he have a huge ministry center named after him. He simply walked among the common people, ministered to people who were despised and rejected such as prostitutes, tax collectors, and lepers. He lived as an invited guest in the homes of others who followed him, ate the food that was given to him and kept a low profile as long as he could to avoid creating chaos among those who were increasing in number as they witnessed his miracles and listened to his teachings.
His teachings came from his father, he only did what his father revealed to him to do. He lived in submission to his heavenly father and did not act on his own. For most people they pride themselves on being independent, not really needing anyone but are content to be self-sufficient. We want to be the boss of our own lives yet Jesus was not interested in doing his own thing but doing what his father wanted him to do. He was tempted to do his own thing just as we are yet did not give in to the temptations.
As his time drew near to go to Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover with his disciples, he entered the city riding on a donkey, a beast of burden and not a beautiful horse or chariot that would be the normal way a king would enter a city.
They say that Alexander the Great entered India in a grand procession of 200 painted elephants, 200 soldiers on black horses and 200 lions surrounding him as he sat on a golden throne atop an ivory chariot proclaiming "I am the Lord of the universe. I conquered the world. Now I will conquer the stars". Alexander died at 33 and today owns nothing.
When he celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples, he washed the feet of each one of them. This was a task of a servant. The disciples failed to find someone to do this lowly task, but Jesus humbled himself to do this for them as an example of what he expected of them in the future. Jesus had taught them that the greatest in his kingdom would have to be the servant of all. This was radical thinking and contrary to the way of life the disciples had witnessed with their leaders as well as the Roman government. The fact that Jesus would wash the feet of Judas whom he knew would soon betray him, demonstrates the extreme humility of Jesus.
His arrest in the garden is also an example of his humility in how he responded. He did not defend himself or try to flee from an unjust situation but submitted himself to the will of his father which would soon lead to his death. Jesus knew what was coming and humbly submitted himself to his father. He accepted his role as the sacrifice for the sins of mankind and followed through with the painful process of the trial, false accusations, beatings, ridicule, mocking and intense physical pain. At any point he could have stopped the abuse and been liberated by the host of angels who were watching. Yet he endured it all for you and I.
His death on the cross was a very humbling experience. This form of death was for notorious criminals and was one of the cruelest forms of punishment. Death often took many days to complete. Jesus was viewed in public naked as a form of humiliation by the soldiers.
The birth of Jesus should always remind us of his life of humility. He came to earth in the form of a human being and became a servant rather than a political or religious leader who could command respect. God chose a different way to enter into the world, a way that had little appeal to anyone seeking a position of power or authority.
As we reflect on the birth of Christ, may we always be reminded that we too are called to be humble servants to mankind. We live in a world that seeks after fame and recognition. It is a world that pushes people out of their way to get what they want. Christ modeled to us from the very beginning of his life, that greatness comes through humble service to God and man. May our lives be ones of service in which we do not care if we are recognized for what we do.