Christmas is just around the corner, and another year is drawing to a close. As we approach Christmas life gets busier and more frantic. Amidst the rush and tinsel it is difficult to remind ourselves of the “reason for the season.”
Over the next month churches around the world will be filled with millions of Christmas reflections focusing on the humble circumstances of Jesus’ birth—the shepherds, the stable, and the feed trough for a cot. We will sing again Christmas carols inspired by such humility and we will again be thankful of wonder of God becoming a human being.
While it is right to be reminded of such humility, it is also a reminder that God asks the same humility of us. The Bible explains that we can only receive Christ through something of the same meekness and humility (Matt. 5:3, 5; 18:3-4).
While such humility may seem simple and obvious, Tim Keller from Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York suggests, it takes great humility to understand humility. In other words, once we begin to focus on humility, pride us just around the corner. As C.S. Lewis comments, “If we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good—above all, that we are better than someone else—I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the Devil.”
Once I ask myself the question, “Am I humble?” I’m opening myself up to pride. Keller suggests, examining one’s heart “often leads to being proud about your diligence and circumspection.” Christian humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less, suggested C. S. Lewis.
What this means is any talk about practical ways to help us become humble will always be counterproductive. Focusing on our attention on how to be humble will end up destroying what humility we may already have.
So what can we do? Are we left in an impossible situation? Thankfully not.
While focussing on humility destroys humility, there are other things we can focus on. When Jesus summarized why people should following him, he said it was because he was meek and humble (Matt. 11:29). Jesus put himself forward as our model of humility. We focus on his humility rather than our own and in doing so take our eyes off ourselves, and begin to think of ourselves less.
Humility then has a chance to grow in our lives, not because we try to be humble but as by-product of our focus on Jesus and our trust in the good news. This good news is that God accepts us not because of what we do but because of love. This love is demonstrated supremely in the humility of the second person of the trinity becoming a human being and living among us.
Christmas is an opportunity to celebrate and marvel at the miracle of the God’s love and acceptance. It captures our focus by sheer wonder and diverts our gaze away from ourselves. We are given a chance to “fix our eyes on Jesus.”
So as we begin to enter the Christmas season this year and as we listen to the stories again, let’s pray that we move past their familiarity and that our hearts, our imaginations, our thinking and our lives and be struck again by the extraordinary humility of Christ.
And then without us even noticing, and by a miracle of God’s grace, we to may begin to live humble lives. Not because we are trying but because we are living in the fullness of God’s grace and love. May the humility of Jesus grow in, through and among us.
Stephen L Baxter