“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:11-12)
How often we hear these words spoken during Advent, and how little we are shocked by them. A divine being is supposed to be decked out in glory and splendor. Imagine how confused the shepherds might have been to hear that Israel’s King was a little baby that was trying to take his first breaths.
Humility was Jesus’ tagline from birth onward. Many religions proclaim that their “God is great” (an exact rallying cry of the Muslims), but one of the central truths of Christianity is that God became little. Jesus could have commanded the winds and waves by a snap of his fingers from heaven; now he was an infant newly removed from the womb who couldn’t eat solid food and only communicated through cries, fully dependent upon a carpenter father and teenage mother.
Philip Yancey describes the fanfare that accompanied Queen Elizabeth II on her trip to the United States. She brought along four thousand pounds of luggage, which included two outfits for every occasion; a mourning suit in case someone died; forty pints of plasma; and white kid leather toilet seat covers. She also brought along her own hairdresser, two valets, and many other attendants. This sort of activity, while a bit much, was common for British royalty.
By contrast, Jesus came to earth in humble fashion, shocking our assumptions about the manner of God’s arrival in the flesh. His first bed was a feeding trough. A mule could have stepped on him.
By virtue of his entry, Jesus affirmed many of the truths that would mark his ministry: The last shall be first. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Receive the kingdom of God as a little child. Such truths shock people out of their usual modes of thinking. But they are essential for us to live in God’s kingdom. Unless we humble ourselves and strip away our pride, we will never enter the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed by word and deed. And once in that kingdom, we keep living in ways that defy reason. Such is the life we are called to by our Savior, who knows a thing or two about changing the rules of the game.