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Summary: What does it mean, and what does it not mean, when it says in scripture that Jesus "emptied Himself?"

He Emptied Himself

TCF Sermon

December 11, 2011

This morning, I’m going to ask you to think – this won’t be a Christmas message where we remember the Christmas story, per se. So, to warm up your thinker, we’re going to have a little quiz:

Name That Christmas Carol – match these words with the right Christmas carol…

1. 5 p.m. to 6 a.m. without noise – Silent Night

2. Miniscule hamlet in the far east – O Little Town of Bethlehem

3. Adorn the vestibule – Deck the Halls

4. Listen, aerial spirits vocalizing musical harmonies – Hark the Herald Angels Sing

5. Monarchial trio - We Three Kings

6. Assemble, everyone who believes and obeys – O Come All Ye Faithful

7. Hallowed post meridian - O Holy Night

8. Homo sapien of crystallized vapor – Frosty the Snowman

Now that your brain’s warmed up, we can begin. When you think of someone who’s condescending toward you, you would typically think of someone looking down on you. Someone who thinks they’re better than you, smarter than you, and treats you that way.

A person who’s condescending towards you usually makes you feel small and unimportant. Generally, that kind of attitude annoys us – or aggravates us. None of us has the right to make someone feel small and unimportant.

But at Christmastime, we remember the One who, by condescending, rather than making us feel small, declared that we are precious and valuable to Him. This is the One who had every right to look down on us, because He truly is so much bigger, so much better, so much smarter, so much holier, than we are.

This morning, we’re looking at what it means in scripture, related to the incarnation, when it says Jesus “emptied Himself,” or as some versions say, made Himself of no reputation.

There’s the story – don’t know whether it’s true or not – of a man named Sam.

He has wild hair, wears a T-shirt with holes in it, jeans and no shoes. This was literally his wardrobe for his entire four years of college. He is intelligent. A little strange, but very, very bright.

He became a Christian while attending college. Across the street from the campus is a well-dressed, very conservative church. They want to develop a ministry to the students, but are not sure how to go about it. One day Sam decides to go there. He walks in with no shoes, jeans, his T-shirt, and wild hair. The service has already started, so Sam starts down the aisle looking for a seat. The church is completely packed and he can’t find a seat. By now people are really looking a bit uncomfortable, but no one says anything. Sam gets closer to the pulpit, and when he realizes there are no seats, he just squats down right on the carpet. Now, this may be perfectly acceptable behavior at a college fellowship, this had never happened in this church before!

By now the people are really uptight, and the tension in the air is thick.

About this time, the minister realizes that from way at the back of the church, a deacon is slowly making his way toward Sam. Now the deacon is in his eighties, has silver-gray hair, and a three-piece suit. A godly man, very elegant, very dignified, very courtly. He walks with a cane and, as he starts walking toward this young man, everyone is thinking to themselves that you can’t blame him for what he’s going to do. How can you expect a man of his age and of his background to understand some college kid on the floor?

It takes a long time for the deacon to reach the young man . The church is utterly silent, except for the clicking of the man’s cane. All eyes are focused on him. The minister can’t even preach the sermon until the deacon does what he has to do. And now they see this elderly man drop his cane on the floor. With great difficulty he lowers himself and sits down next to Sam and worships with him so he won’t feel alone.

Everyone chokes up with emotion. When the minister gains control, he says, "What I’m about to preach, you will never remember. What you have just seen, you will never forget. Source: sermon central

God condescended to leave His throne in glory, become flesh in Christ Jesus, and live among us, so we could see, and remember, what God is like.

Condescend in our typical usage is seen as one person looking down on another, and is thus seen as a negative. But the definition of condescend includes more meanings than this.


1. to act graciously towards another or others regarded as being on a lower level; behave patronizingly (of course, that’s the meaning we usually think of)

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