Summary: Christ’s humility, displayed in the incarnation, is an example for us as his disciples.
Well, after thirty-five days, we finally have a President-elect. How many watched the speeches on Wednesday night? How many can’t remember who won? How many don’t care who won? It’s definitely one for the history books. All during the last five weeks, we’ve been hearing that this is a great lesson in democracy. But from my point of view, this has also been a great object lesson in the contrast between the values of this world and the values of the world to come. It’s a lesson that’s especially appropriate during the Advent season.
On the one hand, we have been witnessing a titanic struggle for the Presidency of the United States of America. This contest required the candidates to raise and spend over two hundred million dollars and invest over a year of their lives doing nothing but campaigning. It involved hundreds of staff people – pollsters, consultants, communications directors, policy advisors, travel agents. It commanded the full-time attention of dozens of newspaper and television reporters. And then, when the vote was counted and found to be so incredibly close, even more time and resources were focused on the election. Hundreds of lawyers. Dozens of people counting and recounting ballots. And all those judges – judges of local circuit courts, federal appeals courts, justices of the Florida Supreme Court, and finally, the United States Supreme Court. In the political arena, the highest value is power – how to get it, how to keep it, how to use it to maximum effect. And the Presidency is the most powerful office on earth. So it’s no wonder that so much time and money and effort went into the Presidential race.
But at the same time as this battle was going on, we’ve also been preparing to celebrate the anniversary of quite a different event. An event which concerns, not power, but humility. This event was little noticed at the time; aside from a few shepherds and a handful of wise men, no one paid any attention at all to the birth of Christ 2,000 years ago. “Powerful” certainly isn’t an adjective one would have used to describe either the baby or his parents. They had so little influence they couldn’t even secure a hotel room, not even with Mary being nine months pregnant. And so they slept in the barn with the livestock. They had so little money that when the time came for Mary to make an offering at the temple for her newborn son, they couldn’t afford the usual sacrifice of a lamb, and could only offer a couple of pigeons. [Read Luke 2:1-7]
This morning, I’d like for us to consider the radical humility of Christ, and how his humility can be an example for us as His followers. This is especially important for us today, because we live in an age when humility isn’t respected. Instead, it’s held in contempt. Anyone who tries to exercise humility is scorned as a weakling or a fool. The role models of our society are not the humble, but the selfishly ambitious, the proud, the arrogant. The people that our society looks up to – sports heroes, actors and actresses, singers, entertainers – they all tend to have one thing in common: a very high regard for themselves, and a great talent for self-promotion. Sometimes it seems that every time you turn on the television or open a newspaper, all you see and hear is “Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!” The one exception is politicians. Not that they’re especially humble, but at least they know it doesn’t look good for them to be constantly talking about themselves, so they hire press secretaries to do it for them.
Let me give you an example: football. It used to be that when a pro football player made a touchdown, he would just run off the field, or maybe spike the ball. Now, we have ten minutes of high fives, and moonwalks, and break dancing, and chest bumps, and jumping around, and taunting the other team – just an orgy of self-congratulation. I can’t really blame those men much. They’re just doing what their culture has taught them to do. But Christ points us in a different direction.
First of all, consider the humility of the incarnation itself, the second person of the Trinity, the eternal Son of God, taking on humanity with all of its limitations, with all of its pain and sorrow and suffering. Listen to how Paul describes it:
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” – 2 Corinthians 8:9 (NIV)
What does that mean, “he became poor”? It means that he gave up his honor and glory, he let go of his position, he relinquished all of the riches of heaven, in order to become one of us, in order to save us from our sins. He gave up that glory in order to become a human baby. Not even an adult. That would be humility enough, to give up the glory of heaven to become a man. But instead he became a helpless little infant.