Summary: What Jesus really wants for Christmas is servants who will serve each other and those outside the church.
1. Jesus wants disciples who will serve each other.
John 13:1-5 ¶ It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
2 The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
John 13:12-17 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
There is so much that is amazing about this episode in Jesus’ life. But in order to grasp the immensity of what he did here let me read one more scripture that describes what he did in coming to earth as a baby in the first place.
Phil. 2:5-7 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
Here is the Son of God, existing eternally in the presence of his Father. He is worshipped by heavenly creatures that defy our imaginations. He is all powerful. He is glorious. He is perfectly wise.
And then he submits to his Father’s plan to set all of that aside to become a human embryo, growing inside a young Jewish girl’s womb. As he is born he does all the things that babies do. All of them. What a humbling experience for God to become flesh and blood. As Paul said it, he made himself nothing, taking the nature of a servant.
Then he grows up, he enters into public ministry and gathers a following. People start to think he is awesome. They clamor for his attention. They want his touch in their lives. But the night before he is executed he humbles himself one more time. He needs his disciples to have one more image of him firmly in their minds before he leaves them. In a very practical way, he takes the form of the lowest servant, gets up from washing their feet and says to them, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
Now, who is it that Jesus told them they were to serve? Each other. Just as he gave up his privilege and what he could have rightly demanded, he teaches his disciples to do the same for each other. So this is where it starts. 1. Jesus wants disciples who will serve each other.
I believe the first place for us to apply this teaching is with our immediate family. Our spouse, our children, our parents. If you want to give Jesus what he wants for Christmas, try starting with serving those closest to you.
This can actually be the hardest. For they can be the most demanding in an ongoing way. Sometimes it’s easier to serve strangers or people who don’t ask it of us very often than to lay down our own desires to serve our families.
ILLUS: How many of you like to do dishes? I’ll never forget one night shortly after we moved to Oak Harbor in 2002. As I sat at the dinner table following a wonderful meal I just did not feel like doing the dishes. I knew they were waiting for me but just wanted them to magically disappear or for a magical servant to appear to whisk them away. Dreaming, I said aloud “What I need right now is a servant who will take all these dishes away!” Out of the corner of my eye I saw two and half year old Ryan, standing a few feet away from the table in the kitchen, look at me, raise his hand, and say “Daddy, I servant.”