Like many families, the day after Thanksgiving we begin listening to Christmas music—fun favorites like Mannheim Steamroller’s renditions of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Avalon’s versions of Joy to the World and Winter Wonderland; and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas arrangements. We enjoy the traditional songs like Away in a Manger, Silent Night, O Holy Night and What Child is This? Handel’s Messiah is incredible—especially the Hallelujah Chorus*.
This week I discovered a new Christmas song. Well, I should say, the lyrics of a song:
“. . . Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made Himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled Himself
and became obedient to death
– even death on a cross!”
These verses, together with Philippians 2:9-11, are written in a poetic form that some biblical scholars believe is a hymn or song of the church during the first century. Whereas most songs about Christ’s birth are written from the human perspective of Christmas, Philippians 2 gives a glimpse of Christmas from God’s perspective—the divine experience of the incarnation. From heaven’s outlook, Christmas is the beginning of Christ’s sacrificial humiliation—the lowest point coming at Calvary, with the culmination of His great sacrifice at Jesus’ exaltation (Philippians 2:9-11).
Our response to Christ’s striking example is simply stated yet overwhelmingly difficult—“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (v.5)**. Instead of asserting His rightful authority and power, Jesus humbly seeks the very best of others—in light of his eternal purpose. Jesus became like those He sought to serve and save—eventually suffer a humiliating death in our place. Imitating Jesus means focusing on the eternal best for another and sacrificially assisting them to that end. Loving others is not about making ourselves or other people happy but is about influencing them to grow into the people God intends them to be—people of the “King of kings and Lord of lords.” That is something to sing the Hallelujah Chorus about!
*Handel’s Messiah brilliantly encompasses the prophecy of God’s salvation to the final acclamation of the Messiah.
**Being like Jesus is a central theme in the New Testament – John 13:15, 34-35; 17:21; Eph 4:32- 5:2; Col 3:17; 1 Peter 5:3; James 4:6, 10. It is essential to the concept of being one body in Christ and the “one another” passages.