Summary: in God’s Kingdom, the powerful things come through what our world would describe as weakness.
When God Became Weak: Advent #1
Philippians 2:5-8 December 4, 2005
Peter writes, in 1 Pet 2:9-12, “9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
11Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”
As “aliens and strangers in the world.” Those of you who know me well may well imagine why I relate to those words. I never really felt like I fit in. I was always a little on the outside; shunned by the really “cool” kids at school; sometimes teased and ostracized. In high school, even though I was the school president (by acclamation – nobody else in my school even ran for the job), I was never invited to a party, never offered a joint, never tempted by any kind of relationship with a non-Christian girl (the closest I came to that was someone who anonymously left a cassette tape in my locker with the Glenn Medeiros song, “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You”)…
Yet I always had a strong center. Of course I felt left out, a little like an “alien” or a “stranger”, but I knew that I really was different. As a child of God, it was ok to not fit in to my high school world, I derived my true identity from my adoption as God’s child.
I think that is one of the reasons why, even now, I sometimes see clearly how opposite God’s Kingdom is from the Kingdom of this world. Our world says “get rich, you’ll be happy”; God’s word says “give, and you’ll be at peace.” Our world says “look out for yourself, nobody else is gonna look out for you”; God’s word says “put others first and God will look out for you.” Our world says “love those who love you”, Jesus said “love your enemy”. Our world says “you must always be strong. Never let them see you sweat.” God word says “when we are weak, God is strong.”
It is that last one, about being strong, that really becomes undone at Christmas.
The Person of God in the Body of an Infant:
We spend a lot of time trying to create an accurate understanding of God. We speak of His power, we sing of His wonder, we stand in amazement at His holiness. We read of how thresholds shake, mountains crumble, armies flee in terror, the dead are raised and the blind given sight, and death itself is swallowed up in victory. We fall to the ground in gratitude at what God has done in our lives – redeeming us, forgiving us for every single sin, healing us, restoring us, bringing joy in the midst of impossible situations, comforting us, encouraging us, and loving us even when we look in the mirror with loathing at ourselves. And we praise Him for His power and His strength, we are in awe, and we worship.
And then comes this Christmas thing. Somehow, we are supposed to wrap our minds around taking all of that power and strength and knowledge and holiness, and stuffing it into the physical body of a completely human, male, infant. Helpless. Weak. Completely and totally dependent on a human mother, on a human father. Both without any support structure of their own, far from home, with the best option for this newborn to sleep being a cattle feeding trough.
That is certainly not the kind of entrance our world would expect of the King of Kings. Certainly not a Hollywood beginning. Certainly not leading in strength and glory.
And it is not like God had no other options! He called Abraham, one of the wealthy and powerful. He rescued Moses and arranged to have him raised in Pharaoh’s palace. Solomon, though conceived in sin, was born into luxury and raised surrounded by power. Not so for God’s own son. He was born in a stable, and then forced to flee as a refugee; homeless, powerless, surviving only on the financial gifts of some strange astrologers who showed up and worshiped this human child.
And there, in all the weakness and helplessness of infancy, in the dirt of a stable, lay God. Of all the many, many things that tells us, let me just point out one today: it is ok to be weak.