Baby Jesus comes to us to save us from our sins. The light of God’s love shines into our darkness and strife, as living hope guiding through despair. The light of God’s grace encircles us, so that we no longer stand condemned but reconciled and at peace. Yet how helpless, how vulnerable is this babe, our Savior born unto us. What incomprehensible freedom is this, to be so entirely receptive to God’s divine will? What a wondrous self-giving of our humble King, who emptied himself (kenosis) and obeyed to the point of death, even death on the cross. It was on account of this merciful humility that God exalted Jesus and gave him the name above all other names.
While the Roman army paraded through the streets on chariots and horses, Messiah Jesus was laid in a box where horses fed. While God’s Son lay in silence, the word-of-mouth surrounded that he is an illegitimate child born out of wedlock. People did not know, but Mary knew: God called her “highly favored.” It was the Spirit of God who gave birth in her, and that this child was born to save his people from their sins. “Glory to God and Peace on Earth” filled the stable and Mary’s heart, and forever the lives of all whose trust and hope is in God.
Jesus brought glory to God and peace on earth, and he worked it out from the very ground where people walked and struggled. There he ate and drank with the people of the land, bringing the Kingdom of God in their midst. He healed the sick, he lifted up the lowly, he embraced the rejected – he did it all to recover the image of God’s beloved in them. During one of our online QT groups a few days ago, one person shared her pain of unanswered prayers. Being a pastor I felt the urge to comfort and give some sort of an answer, but as our time was drawing to a close, the best I could do was to suggest a separate meeting to talk more in-depth. Then something wonderful happened. Others in the group began to make song recommendations to encourage her faith. She was comforted by the warmth and care, I heard the following day. Jesus came and was present with us in that time and space, wherein we listened with open hearts and with hope to bear one another’s burdens.
It was a world chased by the expanding military force of Imperial Rome. It was a world wherein religious leaders took pride and privilege in condemning others. A world that defined power to be invulnerable and demanding. Into that world Jesus came, giving all of his attention, comfort, acknowledgment, and love to one hurting person at a time. There God’s Kingdom came and God entered lives. Those who obeyed the call to empty themselves, found themselves saved by the Messiah. The same mystery is happening today, this moment. Into our humble, empty manger baby Jesus is laid, and in him is light that darkness cannot overcome.
Christmas season challenges us to receive and follow the self-emptying of Jesus (kenosis), to follow his lead of love and humility to lift up the other. Recently there was a church that could not afford to prepare this year’s Christmas gifts for their children. Someone heard the news and anonymously offered to pay for all the gifts. Why anonymously? I believe it was this person’s way of humbling before God, their desire to reveal the goodness of God before their own. Such is the expression of kenotic love Jesus brings into our hearts.
On that holy night, the light shined into dark fields where certain poor shepherds lay. They found the baby in the manger and stayed in that wondrous presence as angels sang praise. Mary and Joseph stayed in that presence – with neither word nor act – just treasuring that presence in their hearts. The presence was enough, for it was the ultimately redeeming presence of God-with-us, God-for-us.
People say this year’s Christmas will be a lonely one due to the pandemic. So let us encourage one another all the more to stay in that presence. Jesus will be with us in every sharing of love with humility.