Summary: Sermon on Christian life patterned after the incarnation of Christ.
In the 1950-s, Sao Kya Seng, the prince of 34 independent Shan states in northeastern Burma, also known as Hsipaw, came to Denver, Colorado, to study agriculture. Since he wanted to experience what it was like to be a student in the US, he kept his identity secret. Not even his professors knew who he really was. One of his fellow students was Inge Sargent from Austria. Both of them being exchange students, Inge and the Burmese prince quickly found that they had a lot in common and started to spend more and more time together. Their friendship grew into love but the Burmese prince decided that he would not let on his true identity even though they were seriously dating. He did not want Inge’s decision to date him to be colored by the fact that she could marry into royalty. So when he finally proposed, with an engagement ring of ruby and diamond, Inge still did not know who he really was. Inge said yes and they got married, as any other couple, in the US. For their honeymoon, Sao Kya Seng was taking Inge to his home country, so that she could meet his family and see where he was from. When their ship reached the shores of Burma, hundreds of people were waiting at the harbor. Many of them had gone out in small boat, holding up welcoming signs. A band was playing and some people were tossing flowers at the ship. Surprised at all this excitement Inge turns to her husband, and asks whose arrival they are celebrating. “Inge,” he says, I am the prince of Hsipaw. These people are celebrating our arrival. You are now the princess.” (From Twilight over Burma: My Life As a Shan Princess, by Inge Sargent.)
The story of Jesus is the story of God coming to this world in a way you never would have expected. It is the story of God incognito. Jesus, who was himself God, came to the world and concealed his divine majesty by becoming a human being like you and me.
“Being in very nature God, he did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”
Why did he do this? This is the way he shows his love for us.
Do you know what impresses me about some of my good friends? That they will let me be myself when I am around them. I don’t have to pretend. I can just relax. I don’t have to pretend that I have everything together. I don’t have to pretend that I am holier than I am. I can just be who I am with all my imperfections. Friends that let me be like that, are the friends that don’t play games with me. They don’t have a polished facade that they keep showing me without letting me see their weaknesses. They show me the trust that they let me look into their own life and they give me the freedom that I can be comfortable letting them share of myself.
Do you think of God in that way?
Have you played the game when you hear a word and you are supposed to say the first word that comes to your mind? If I say “God,” what words do you think of? Heaven? Glory? Holy? Exalted? Throne?
How about slave? obedient? death? lowly? pathetic? shame?
A Norwegian preacher once said that Jesus stepped down so low, so that he would always be below us, so that he could always be there and catch us when we fall.
Have you noticed how many people that want to be your friend when it comes to offering good advice and telling you how to do things? They want to be the older brother friend or the older sister friend. They want to be the ones that always know. Not that they mind sharing their superior knowledge with you. That’s how they show that they are your friend. I think of these people as people that like to be your friend, the friend that is placed a little bit higher than you. I don’t like to have too many of these friends. I prefer the people where I can be the one standing a little bit higher, the friendship where I can be the one that knows best. But how difficult it is to find the friend that is happy to stand below you.
How hard it is to be that friend, who is happy to stand below.
Can you imagine that God came to be that friend. When he came to the world he abandoned all his power, status, and influence, and became a carpenter without a permanent address. Of course, for the incarnation to happen, he had to let go of some of his divine majesty, so that he could fit in a human body. But there were so many other ways he could have chosen to become a human being. He could have come in a way more appropriate for someone of such tremendous importance. He could have come as a king, or at least as a wealthy, highly respected member of the community