Christmas Humility

The beginning and first point of my sermon for Sunday.

(Begin with the typical good morning.) :)

In case you were living in an isolated bomb shelter 100 miles under the earth without any form of communication the last few days, I am going to take on the role of Captain Obvious and point out that yesterday was Christmas. However, the reason for celebrating Christmas wasn’t so obvious. Suppose you were an alien visiting earth with the intention of writing back to your home planet about our culture, you would be able to observe this madness we call Christmas and have a very good chance of not even realizing what we consider the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas would appear to be about shopping, about giving and getting presents, about getting together with family, about being stressed out and traveling all over the country, about overeating, about festive lights and trees decorated with shiny balls and other assorted things. But the true reason of Christmas is not among the obvious.

This brings me to our passage for today. Like the way American culture sometimes misses on the true meaning of Christmas, we also have the tendency to miss and ignore one of the key traits that Jesus modeled for us to follow. If you would, please turn with me in your Bibles to Phillipians 2. We will be reading verses 1-11. I’m going to be reading from the Message today, so if you don’t like the Message feel free to read along from your own Bible. And if you don’t like the Message and didn’t bring a Bible to read along with, you have no leg to stand on.

Philipians 2:1-11
1 If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care - 2 then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. 3 Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. 4 Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. 5 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. 6 He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. 7 Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! 8 Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death - and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion. 9 Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, 10 so that all created beings in heaven and on earth - even those long ago dead and buried - will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, 11 and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

One trait made the first Christmas possible, Jesus’ humility. If you have heard me preach before, you probably have gotten the picture that I like to use illustrations from television shows, novels, and movies. When it came to humility I struggled trying to find an illustration in our culture of entertainment. Humility is not a trait that our culture exalts. We exalt individualism, vengeance, materialism, and independence. Just like our culture does with the meaning of Christmas, it does a good job of hiding humility.

(I might not do this little guessing game. But I do think it would be fun.)

Let’s play a little game, the first kid to guess who I am describing will receive this little bag of delicious and fun fruit snacks, maybe to eat now, maybe to eat later, or maybe never to eat at all. It is all up to the parent’s discretion.

He wears red and blue.
He lives in New York City.
He shoots webs.
He fights Doctor Octopus.
He loves Mary Jane, the woman not the plant.
His first name is Spider. His last name is man.
He looks like this. (Show picture of Spider-Man.)

Spider-Man. If you watched Spider-Man 2 last summer you would’ve seen a man struggling with being humble. He gave up his role as Spider-Man, threw his costume into the trash, and walked away thinking that he would never look back. But then came the villains. They forced him to either decide to let people suffer or to give up his plans for a normal life and return to the life of the hero. He had to put aside his own dreams of what he wanted out of life and do what was intended for him to do. He wanted to be a good college student, hold down a steady job, and win back the love of his life. There's nothing wrong with any of those goals; however, they were not what he was intended to do. That is an example of humility, putting aside your selfish dreams and aspirations - no matter how noble they might be – for the benefit of those around you, even when doing what benefits those around you isn’t particularly for your personal best interests. Spider-Man showed us genuine humility.

It’s up to you and me to turn the fictionalized humility of Spider-Man or the genuine Christmas founding humility of Christ into a living reality to those around us. We need to put our own dreams and aspirations aside, notice the needs of those around us, and act to meet those needs.

C.S. Lewis described humility in his book Miracles:

"In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity ... down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature He has created.

"But He goes down to come up again and bring the ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulder…

"In this descent and re-ascent everyone will recognise a familiar pattern: a thing written all over the world. It is the pattern of all vegetable life. It must belittle itself into something hard, small and deathlike, it must fall into the ground: thence the new life re-ascends….

"So it is also in our moral and emotional life. The first innocent and spontaneous desires have to submit to the deathlike process of control or total denial: but from that there is a re-ascent to fully formed character in which the strength of the original material all operates but in a new way. Death and Rebirth--go down to go up--it is a key principle. Through this bottleneck, this belittlement, the highroad nearly always lies"

Humility is a tough concept to grasp hold off. Examples of it are not exalted in our culture. It's an even tougher to live out. But the perfect example of humility was shown to us on Christmas morning over 2000 years ago. God, who has all power and knowledge, emptied himself of those things and took on the flesh, skin and bones just like you and me. He humbled himself and put his security in the arms of Joseph and Mary, humans like you and me. He lowered himself to our level in order to exalt us to His. That is the beauty of Christmas. Jesus came so that people like you and me can become what we were intended to be. We can give up our selfish and fruitless dreams and aspirations and clothe ourselves in the humility that Christ began to model on that Christmas Day thousands of years ago. If we want to make the Christmas story to come out of hiding in our society, then we need to take the first steps as followers of Jesus and swaddle ourselves in his humility. We cannot grasp hold of what God intends for us and those around us if we continue to hang on to our own goals and desires.

Onto Point 2.

Watch out for the potholes.