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Jesus, the humble baby of Bethlehem
The humility of Jesus in becoming human and the lowliness of His birth is very remarkable. And yet, His great glory will not be covered. The Bible in Philippians 2:6-11, in what is called the Christ Hymn in the Early Church, records the contrast of the deep humility of Jesus and His glorious exaltation: “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.
“When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honour and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
(Philippians 2:6-11 NLT). This Early Christ Hymn is about Christ’s existence even before creation; His divine nature; and His humility in becoming human; His humility in death; and His great exaltation and lordship. Though Jesus is God, He gives up His divine privileges. He took upon Himself the humble position of a slave and goes through life in amazing divine self-denial; and in obedience to God. “For it was God’s will that Jesus who never sinned, be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT). He rises from the dead on the third day following His death. And God bestows on Him the highest honour ever!
Jesus is born in humble lowliness in Bethlehem. His parents, a poor peasant couple, travel home to Bethlehem on the orders or decree of Emperor Augustus of the Roman Empire. They arrive to find no accommodation. Mary gives birth here in Bethlehem: “She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.” (Luke 2:7 NLT).
When the special baby Jesus arrives, this is announced “not to great kings or the rich and powerful. But to lowly shepherds watching their flock in the field”. This is how the baby King Jesus is born in humble lowliness. Not in pomp and circumstance. Not in great show of arrival of a royal son. But in humility. The humble way Jesus came as human is amazing! How have you prepared for the arrival of babies in your family? How do you welcome and name the babies? How will you welcome Jesus into your heart and home this Christmas? And all of your life?
Second, this lowly humility of Jesus in coming on earth and becoming human can find place only in the womb of a holy young woman God has graciously chosen for this task. We are thinking here of the humility of Jesus and the holiness of Mary. The Angel Gabriel delivers a message: “God sent the Angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favoured woman! The Lord is with you!” Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favour with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.” (Luke 1:26-32 NLT).
At this point, Mary is the only candidate as the bride for Joseph in a planned marriage that is to happen. The message is deep, perplexing and most attractive to this Jewish young woman of faith. She replies: “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” (Luke 1:34 NLT). The Angel Gabriel assures her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35 NLT). The Holy Spirit will come upon a holy young woman in this unique story of God becoming human.
God still works through humans. And no human person qualifies to be used by God, until God qualifies them by making them holy through the power of the Holy Spirit that changes us. (See 2 Corinthians 5:17). In addition, today God uses people who regularly live practically holy lifestyles of purity, godliness and integrity: “In a wealthy home, some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay.
The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honourable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the master to use you for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2: 20-21 NLT). Heaven is aware Mary is a virgin, a pure girl. (See Luke 1:26-27). And Mary is very certain about her sexual purity (see Luke 1:34). A humble and holy Mary, by God’s great grace, gives birth to the humble Jesus, who is also saviour of the world! Amazing!!
Earlier, the Angel Gabriel visits Zechariah and Elizabeth. Listen to heaven’s testimony about this couple: “Zechariah and Elizabeth were both righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations.” (Luke 1:6 NLT).
Jesus came a lowly babe of Bethlehem. He will come, a second time, gloriously as Lord and King! And so the Bible tells us: “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14 NLT).
Merry and blessed Christmas; and celebration of Jesus’ birth to all!
(The author is a consultant in authentic Christian Spirituality and Discipleship and former CEO of Scripture Union)