Get in the Spirit of Christmas
by Impact Church
2:5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8
And then, suddenly, Thanksgiving is here and gone! The day set aside for giving thanks with a traditional meal against the backdrop of the deepening fall of leafless trees has been all but turned into a pre-game meal for Black Friday. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ends with Santa Claus reminding everyone that the Christmas shopping season has begun. Imagine a store hosting a parade so that that people will remember to go shopping!
Christmas is 25 days away. The countdown has begun for a Christmas break for teachers and students, a few days off for others, and 23 days before most men begin shopping. It’s ingrained in our mental models that we move from one holiday to the next and have a certain level of expectation along the way. Before everything became an appeal to sell us something, the holidays were timely reminders of spiritual realities that brought our earthly life into alignment with the pattern of God’s truth. As God revealed Himself in the seasons on a large scale, so we acknowledged His work in our life throughout the year in a more personal tribute to His goodness to us.
Philippians 2:5-8 is one of the many Christmas stories in the New Testament. One of the passages that describe when God became a man. Other books tell the story in more expected ways: Matthew used a name, “Emmanuel”, meaning “God with us” to describe the event. Luke’s Gospel is the most searched biblical book on Google throughout the world during December. The reason? It’s the Christmas story we all know about three wise men bringing gifts for their King. In John’s Gospel, the shortest version of the Christmas story is, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. The Apostle Paul saw the Christmas event different than most do. He saw it for its example of humility and a model for believers to have with each other.
In Philippians 2:5, Paul commands the church to take the same approach to one another that Jesus Christ exhibited in His life. And that standard is the greatest example of all. What did Jesus do?
- Jesus was God and did not regard His identity as something to take advantage of. We rarely consider this Divine contemplation. He thought as God but didn’t act as we would expect God to act.
- He emptied Himself not of His identity – God cannot stop being God – but of His rights and privileges.
- “Taking the form of a bond-servant – being made in the likeness of men – being found in appearance as a man”, all three of these references are downward steps of God plunging Himself into the once sinless world He created, now ruined by sin, rebellion, and death. The King took off His robe, was born of a woman, and was revealed to the world.
- Jesus took the final steps into the sinful world by becoming obedient to die the worst kind of death, on the humiliating Cross for the sin not His own.
The biblical model for the spirit of Christmas is personal humility and regarding others as more important than ourselves. Giving thanks is essential in the life of a person who has been graced by God. Thanksgiving is a great holiday but the real standard for our lives is Christmas on the way to Easter. From the manger to the Cross. God loved us, gave His son, so it’s right for us to give to others. But more important than the buying and giving is the attitude for each other. This is what Paul sought for the Philippians church and is the exhortation for our church:
if there is any encouragement in Christ,
if there is any consolation of love,
if there is any fellowship of the Spirit,
if any affection and compassion,
2 make my joy complete by
being of the same mind,
maintaining the same love,
united in spirit,
intent on one purpose.
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit,
but with humility of mind
regard one another as more important than yourselves;
4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests,
but also for the interests of others.