The Glorious Emptying of Christmas, Pt. 2
“WHEN JESUS WAS INCARNATED IN THE WOMB OF THE VIRGIN,
HE DID NOT NOR COULD NOT CEASE BEING GOD AND
ON AN EQUALITY WITH GOD.”
He did not say:
cannot deny Himself.”
A French prince in the Middle Ages was once asked if he had been faithful to his wife. He answered, “Yes…frequently.” Of course the humor masks the tragic fact that human beings may and often do go back on their word. God never does! What He says, promises and prophesies is chiseled in granite.
EXCLUSIVE OBJECT OF INTEREST, CONCERN AND ATTENTION,
BUT HE BECAME TOTALLY ABSORBED IN CONCERN
The cry of the world is:
The clarion call of Christianity is:
In other words, while the world sings:
the Apostle Paul is commanding us:
John Worth, a Lutheran pastor, tells of watching a one act play when he was a child. The plot of this play was centered around a submarine crew trapped at the bottom of the ocean. Desperate, they decide that if there is a body floating on the sea’s surface with a note in its pocket describing their situation below, it might be found and they might be rescued. Lots were drawn as to who would be chosen to be ejected through the torpedo tube. This would bring certain death to the individual, but the slimmest possible hope to the crew.
A young sailor was chosen, but in his fear he refused the assignment. Finally, another soldier volunteered. The play ended with the young sailor abandoned by his crewmates in a leaking apartment of the submarine, while they all heard the sound of the torpedo tube ejecting the brave sailor who EMPTIED HIMSELF, that is, HE MADE HIMSELF OF NO ACCOUINT.
Of course, this was all in the drama of a play. Jesus’ emptying Himself was in the drama of real life, and the emptying was infinitely greater. Christ Jesus made Himself of no account when He stepped down from Heaven into the womb of the Virgin. There has never been an emptying like it before or since. And there never will be again. Paul calls it "The Mystery of Godliness."
But let us again repeat:
"CHRISTMAS IS NOT AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXPEDITION DIGGING
AROUND IN THE EARTHLY REMAINS OF AN EX-GOD."
Otherwise we will do what the world does with Baby Jesus, as they put a cute little Christmas hat on the child, place Him into mother Mary’s arms and are done with Him for another year until next Christmas. So they leave Bethelem and go home, take a shower and change clothes for work. Business as usual! What a godless waste! They do not meet God in Christ – Immanuel – God With Us!
THE HUMILIATION UNDERTAKEN (Con’t)
Now then, what more exactly was this CHRISTMAS EMPTYING OF HIMSELF? What more specifically was this HUMILATION UNDERTAKEN VOLUNTARLITY? There are three huge emptyings of Himself that we must note here!
First, HE TOOK ON THE FORM OF A BOND-SERVANT (Greek DOULOS – someone who is voluntarily united and bonded to His master). We read in Philippians 2:7,
“HE WAS NOT A RELUCTANT VICTIM BUT A LOVING
AND WILLING BOND-SERVANT VOLUNTEER.”
He willingly took on the form of a bond-servant!
AND NOT ONE WHO WILLINGLY SERVES.”
AND NOT ONE WHO DEMANDS TO BE SERVED.”
Jesus said so powerfully in Matthew 20:28,
"Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but
to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
If we are to have the mind and attitude of Christ, we are going to have to get this through our heads, namely:
LADDER,BUT AT THE TOP OF GOD’S KINGDOM LADDER.”
I am sure you know this by now:
THE WAY DOWN.”
Jesus said so Matthew 23:11,
What are we saying. Christ Jesus came on a BOND–SERVANT’S MISSION, and above all, the servant of His Heavenly Father. (Much more on that later) If you will:
NOT FIRST OF ALL A KING."
Have this attitude in you which was also in Christ Jesus!
“CHRIST JESUS BECAME THE BOND-SERVANT THAT ALL OF THE SUB-
SERVIENCE AND SUBJECTION TO THE WILL
If you will:
UNDILUTED, COMPLETE BOND-SERVANTHOOD.”
TRULY CELEBRATED BY SERVANTS.”
“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle,
A group of soldiers was released from prison camp at the end of World War II. Because transportation was limited, and bad weather threatened to cut off the port. The remaining soldiers who were to board the last boat were told they could only bring one piece of luggage if they had any.
Two soldiers had been together throughout the war and had looked out for each other. When one was selected to go and the other forced to stay behind and wait for another boat, the first soldier turned over his tattered duffle bag, spilled out what personal contents (some keepsakes) he had left onto the ground, and told his friend to step into the bag. When he emptied his bag, he emptied himself. When he told his friend to step into that bag, he took on the form of a servant. He then strenuously lifted the bag onto his back and carried his most important luggage onto the ship – his friend. The glory of self-emptying!
However and now listen closely:
ESSENTIALLY DEFINES HIS OR OUR SERVANTHOOD.”
and to give His life a ransom for man.”
He Himself asks in Luke 22:27,
the one who serves?
…But I am among you as one who serves.”
the will of Him who sent Me.”
My soul delights.”
Or again Isaiah 52:13 (KJV),
extolled and be very high.”
And again in Isaiah 53:11,
will justify many.”
It is all the total reverse to natural man who is always seeking the top spot. Christmas in Bethlehem is not politics as usual. It is an historical fact that Turkish emperors routinely strangled their younger brothers to eliminate competition for the throne. Roman King Herod killed all the boy babies in Bethlehem and vicinity to secure his throne.
But here in Bethlehem is the One Who is God and equal with God, and yet humbles Himself in total subjection and subordination before the Throne of God. This is the solitary instance of such a conjunction. There is no apt analogy in Heaven, on earth or in Hell; there is no analogy in the whole of history; there will be no analogy in all the endless ages of eternity. It belongs sole and uniquely to Him Who being in the form of God emptied Himself and took on the form of God’s servant.
But always remember this, and blow the trumpet of exaltation in Zion, in all of Christ’s humiliating and lowly birth, scorned life and bitter death, because in all of it He was submitting as His Father’s servant:
TOTALLY WITHOUT DEGRADATION.”
FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, IT IS HUMILIATION WTH NO
DEGRADATION, BUT ONLY WITH
Why? Because of the God of Glory Whom we serve. There it is:
"THE GLORIOUS EMPTYING OF CHRISTMAS"
Dear God help us by your Holy Spirit to get this deep into our servant-hearts. Help us to skim off the whipped cream from the modern Christmas fairy tale in a world which hungers and thirsts for top power and position, and gird ourselves with the servant’s towel and basin, and wash each other’s feet around the Christmas tree this year.
Dear God, before we leave this, help us to understand that in the Biblical Christmas, there are no Employers or Employees, Senior Pastors or Associate Pastors etc. There are only Servants of the Living God and Servants of Servants.
“…and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in
appearance as a man….”
I begin this with words from Max Lucado as he writes in his book God Came Near, “The omnipotent, in one instant, made Himself breakable. He Who had been spirit became pierceable. He Who was larger than the universe had become an embryo. And He Who sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl. God as a fetus! Holiness sleeping in a womb! The Creator of life being created.”
Before we really get into it, the words "Likeness" and "Appearence" might lead some to believe that Jesus took on similarities of manhood, but in fact was not full and essential manhood. In other words, a sham manhood! Nothing could be further from the truth!
The Greek word for "Likeness" is "Homo–ioma." Homo–oioma/Man-Like means that Jesus didn’t just put on human skin and clothes and play the role of man. That would really only mean disfigurement and not incarnation for the Son of God. This tells us that He indeed is man, but like man in the sense that He became a human being but with no sin. If you will:
"FULLY LIKE US IN HIS HUMANNESS BUT FULLY UNLIKE
US IN HIS SINLESSNESS."
This is what is so powerful about "Full God" becoming "Full Man." This is what is so captivating about the Christmas story – IT IS SO TRUE TO LIFE. There are no stage props! Nor would it be true to life if it was all nicely antisceptic and deoderized. You know what I mean, that is, if the sheperds only had joy in their hearts but no dung on their boots. Or, if baby Jesus has only a halo around His head but no dung in His diaper. It would be a Barren Christmas from a only a semi-pregnant, semi-barren womb. We would all be hoodwinked and at the end of Christmas left for dead. Hear this:
"CHRISTMAS IS TRULY CHRISTMAS ONLY WHEN THE DUNG
IS JUST AS REAL AS THE DELIGHT."
Jesus had to be fully man to be able to die for the sins of men. His essential manhood is too the heart of Christmas not only, but the heart of salvation. if we are putting our trust in a less than fully human man, trusting him for our salvation if like flying a defective airplane.
Now then, no insult intended, but His being made in the likeness of man, this was the deepest depths of humiliation. It would have been humiliation under the most ideal of human and earthly conditions. Infinite humiliation because of the great discrepancy and contrast between the Creator and the creature, between the Infinite and the finite! It was the unbridgeable discrepancy and contrast between God and man. Think of yourself becoming as a cockroach or a worm! That still doesn’t get it! Hear me:
INSTRUMENTATION SENSITIVE ENOUGH TO MEASURE
THE DISTANCE THAT JESUS TRAVELED IN
But you see, in this day of the exaltation of man – THE AGE OF MAN – in both in modern education and modern religion, what the Son of God became in His incarnation is no longer looked upon even as condescension let alone humiliation. It was no big step downward for God to become man in modern educational thinking or in ecclesiastical awareness. At most, he just relocated Himself into the high dignity of manhood. Man today is always polishing his humanity to the highest luster. He might even go so far as to say that for God to become man was a promotion, but certainly not a demotion.
earth upon its foundations….,”
I mean to say, even for us human beings to be demoted in or dismissed from our place of work and employment is not only calamitous, but horribly humiliating and dehumanizing. Those changes downward in our lives are felt so sharply and painfully. But then how much more to come from Heaven to earth and eventually to Hell! Listen:
The incarnation of Jesus Christ would have been humiliation even in a sinless world. But on top of all of this, it wasn’t an ideal world or humanity into which He came. It was into a world and humanity of sin, misery and death. He came in the likeness of sinful flesh and in the likeness of sin-cursed humanity. Though He Himself was without sin, holy, harmless, undefiled and separated from sin, nevertheless He came into the closest relationship with sinful humanity that was possible without thereby Himself becoming sinful.
Even among his closest companions He could not get away from the badness, as one of His own proved to a betrayer and squealer in the federal penitentiary called human society. A world in which you never know who is going to emerge as the next infamous murderer. Imagine how Lee Harvey Oswald Sr. felt, and multiply that by zillions, and we would only begin to touch the depth of Christ’s humiliation, pain and suffering.
I so well recall with my then young family while pastoring in sheltered, upscale Wyckoff, New Jersey visiting dear friends in the expansive ghettos of Brooklyn and sleeping overnight in their 4th floor ghetto apartment. Sirens blaring all night through the open windows in the summer’s heat! Drunkards staggering below in the shadowy darkness of the dimly lit street lights! Across the street was a house of ill-repute. Across the hallway in the nearest apartment homosexuals living out together their perversion.
At one point while looking down to the street below, a car drove up and a human body was dumped out of the backdoor onto the curbing. We couldn’t tell whether the person was dead or alive. Then he moved, picked himself up and staggered away into the darkness.
My friend Frankie that we were visiting (Frankie was studying at the time at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and is now an art professor at Calvin College), took me with him that evening from Brooklyn to Manhattan to witness in Times Square and hand out tracks to the drunks and prostitutes. I remember feeling through it all that I had gone from Heaven to Hell.
Multiply all of that by infinity, and you will only slightly begin to understand or feel what it meant for Christ Jesus to lay aside the incomprehensible glories and enjoyments of Heaven and come to and be identified with the dark and dreadful sinfulness of earth. There it is:
EMPTYING IT WAS.”
And in it all, Hell’s hellians despised Him, accused Him and incessantly sought to kill Him. He was constantly in the midst of sniper fire and flying shrapnel. He was always ministering and doing good, but in the world’s theater of angelic-demonic, Heaven-Hell war operations. Man and demons looked at Him like Dracula in the movies looks at a crucifix.
“And I looked for sympathy, but there was none, and for
comforters but I found none."
“…He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point
Here according to Paul, this was the last and the deepest depth of humiliation. Now note carefully, death for our Lord, yes His death on the cruel Roman cross of a criminal’s fate, was an ACT OF OBEDIENCE. It was the gruesome and yet grand climax of His Divinely commissioned servanthood to His Heavenly Father.
THE WILL OF HIS FATHER, IT AGAIN WAS A DEATH OF
HUMLIATION WITH NO DEGRADATION.”
“Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani, that is, My God, My God, Why
Here the emptying reaches the bitterest bottom, yes, even lower than the bottom. Here we come face to face with the fullness of the reality of the lowest extremity to which his self-emptying bondservanthood took him. Here we come to His vicarious atonement and suffering for our sins, for which suffering there is no parallel in all of human history, past, present and future. It could not and cannot ever be duplicated.
“IT IS EMPTYING, HUMILIATION AND SUFFERING
UNLIMITED AND UNCONTAINABLE.”
And what is more:
Only when He had drank the cup of Hellish agony dry, and only when there was no more to empty did He cry in John 19:30,
“THE EMPTYING OF CHRIST IS GLORIOUS FOR MAN BECAUSE
Truly we now can sing with the angels standing all over the Judean hillsides:
I pray this has delivered us from another trifling Christmas in which men pay attention to things which don’t matter and miss everything that really matters.
I am reminded of the story that John Maxwell tells about a then Eastern Airlines jumbo jet that crashed in the Everglades of Florida sometime back. The plane was the then famous Flight 401 bound from New York to Miami with a heavy load of holiday passengers. As the plane approached the Miami Airport for landing, the light that indicates proper deployment of the landing gear failed to light. The plane flew in a large, looping circle over the swamps of the Everglades while the cockpit crew checked to see if the gear actually had not deployed, or if the bulb in the signal light was defective.
May God have strongly helped us this Christmas and every Christmas to follow, never to deal with trifles and mistle toe again and thereby crash our souls into a Christless and Hellish eternity. May beginning this Christmas you no longer end up like every Christmas before – with three cubic yards of stuffed animals and one awful hangover.
THE EXALTATION BESTOWED
Climactically we read in Philippians 2:9,
name which is above every other name.”
We have seen thus far:
1. The Christmas Dignity Possessed
2. The Christmas Humiliation Undertaken
3. The Exaltation Bestowed
God has finally exalted His humiliated Son. That of course is the action of the Father as the reward of His humiliation. That is what the THEREFORE is THERE FOR! Christ Jesus’ obedience alone has that intrinsic quality of meriting an eternal reward.
his own labor.”
NOT OF MERIT.”
But in the emptying, i.e the bond-servanthood, incarnation and death of Christ on the cross:
TO DIVINE PROPRIETY MUST REWARD.”
Remember the words of our Lord to His Heavenly Father in John 17:4-5,
which Thou hast given Me to do.”
the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.”
There it is, the very meaning of the word THEREFORE in Philippians 2:9
CONCEIVABLE, SO NOW THE FATHER EXALTS HIS SON
WITH THE HIGHEST EXALTATION IMAGINABLE.”
The Father gave His Son:
Because of the very perfection of the work He accomplished in His humiliation, the most transcendent glory is rewarded Him in His exaltation. He is exalted above all principalities and powers, and above every name that is named.
And all because of:
EOUSNESS! LIGHT AND LIFE TO ALL HE BRINGS, RISEN WITH HEALING IN HIS WINGS: MILD HE LAYS HIS GLORIES BY, BORN THAT MAN NO MORE MAY DIE; BORN TO RAISE THE SON’S OF EARTH, BORN TO GIVE THEM SECOND BIRTH.