Emptied Himself

Posted under The Rectory Bulletin | Christmas

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5–11)

It is commonly thought that these verses from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians are a quote from an existing Christian hymn. If that is the case - and it seems likely - then what we have here is a very early summary of what Jesus came to achieve.

The words trace the path which Jesus followed, and there are two movements: humility and then glory. As Jesus is born, as he takes human flesh, we find words such as “emptied”, “servant”, “humbled”, “death” and “cross”. Here is the cost of Christmas, the price of Jesus’ birth. The one who was “in the form of God”, is “found in human form” and that brings with it human weakness.

Things do not stop there. At the end of this short hymn, as we move through Christmas and Good Friday, we arrive at Easter where Jesus is “highly exalted”. At simply the name of Jesus, all will bow and confess that he is Lord. This humility has led to glory, and brings with it all who place their faith in that humbled Christ.

This is the path Christ took, a path which began in Bethlehem, a path which was costly. God’s work of salvation is not one which is cheap, and the price falls squarely upon Christ. That is why we bow at his name.

Why Christmas?

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:4–7) - As you lift up your heart to rejoice at the birth of Jesus, lift up your voice and cry out “Abba! Father!”. Mary may have given birth to a single son, but through that one son heaven is populated with millions more.

Nicholas Hereford

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. (1 Timothy 4:13) - We don’t know precisely when he was born, but he was ordained in 1370 after the death of his wife, and soon became a Fellow of Queen’s College in Oxford. There he became a friend of Wycliffe, the great rebellious translator of the Bible into English, whose words lie behind so much of the King James Version.

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