Summary: In our culture we are all about promotions and advancement: a better salary, a bigger office, a nicer view, executive dining room privileges, more benefits, flying first class, luxury suites, and options and bonuses. We all have felt this pull toward a ni
SERMONIC / WORSHIP THEME
Opening Statement: In our culture we are all about promotions and advancement: a better salary, a bigger office, a nicer view, executive dining room privileges, more benefits, flying first class, luxury suites, and options and bonuses. We all have felt this pull toward a nicer lifestyle, a more comfortable existence. We are oriented to move up in the system rather than down. And while God-honoring achievement and progress is commendable, and having solid Christians in corporate America is so necessary, if Jesus had adopted our viewpoints on promotion and advancement, we would have never had Christmas. I think what you will find in the incarnation is a God that does not move up on the ladder, but moves down with love as the motivating factor.
Proposition: Life-changing love requires self-demotion. There is no other way to have Christmas.
Text / Key Word: According to Philippians 2, Christ took a series of demotions to come and be the Christmas child.
Review: Last week, we looked at Christmas Hope that moved into our neighborhood. We talked about how Christmas was all about reversal, about how God entered our dark and gloomy places where sin had stung us the most severely, and how Christmas Hope lived in and transformed our locations of sin. Today, we talk about…
Title: Christmas Love
Background: Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians to thank them for their partnership with him in the gospel. In the middle of this informal letter, Paul launches into this formal Christological hymn to underscore the need to adopt a selfless kind of lifestyle and thinking. This is really what Christmas is about. Paul places the incarnational example of Jesus before the divided parties of the Philippian community and says to them “Treat each other with Christmas Love.”
Recitation: 1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Exposition: When reading this passage, I think a couple of things cause us to miss the astounding implication of what is being described. I think we are so familiar with Paul’s words that we miss their impact. This passage has been the topic of many Christmas sermons. In addition, I also think that we get in a hurry to get to the exciting details found in the Christmas birth narratives. These human stories – shepherds, stables, and newborns - explain Christmas from our perspective. We can relate to them. But the Philippian passage is Christmas from Jesus’ side of it. And even though it’s not nearly as exciting for us to think about, it explains the price that love paid to give to all of us a Christmas morning. Christ did go through a series of demotions. He came from heaven to earth. He became a man. He became a serving man, rather than a man of affluence and wealth. He became a sacrifice, submitting to death, in order to become our Savior. These are all true, but not all of those steps down were equal.
Observation: The first step down from heaven to earth was the greatest step. It was a lot further down than the other successive steps. Those of us who have only known this earth have no idea the gap between heaven and earth. We have no categories to help us think through what heaven must have been like for Him. We know that He undoubtedly was honored as one of the three persons of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We know that His environment was filled with sights and sounds and beauty that only our Biblical writers could describe in terms that they understood: gold, precious jewels, pure water, abundance of food, and a lot of celebration! The legions of angels must have marveled at the intimacy He must have had with His Father and the Holy Spirit, which undoubtedly rendered the three inseparable. I want you to contrast this kind of existence, sketchy though it may be, in your thinking with what we know about Christmas.