by faith comes God’s miracle Promise

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Luke 1:26-38

We who follow Christ live by faith in God’s word. That is the heart of Mary’s response to the amazing word the angel/messenger gave to her. Along with a servant’s attitude, that God’s will be done.

It’s interesting that the gospel in the person of Christ came into the world through the faith of this young woman. Yes, God could have done it any way God would have chosen, but he chooses by and large to work through our faith in him, in his word. Our trust is not at all in ourselves, or even in our faith, but in God and God’s promises. That is where our faith rests. And by which we see God’s miracle come. In and through Jesus.

 

stepping aside for others

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:1-11

This passage in its rich context tells us that as those in Christ we’re to value others above ourselves. We’re to take the place of the servant just as the one we follow, Christ did. Of course he did it par excellence, like none other. He not only set the precedent, but only in and through him can it be lived out to its fullest. Not to say we can ever do it to the degree and perfection he did. No. But certainly by the Spirit, we can live it out from the heart.

There’s a time to step aside and let others take over and lead the way. Maybe after we’ve shown them the way by example and word. Then we can continue to be an example by letting them take over.

We do well to take the lower place. We want to do so in fellowship with the one who took the lowest place for us and for the world: Jesus. That’s the fellowship in which we’re to live ourselves, and with others in him. In and through Jesus.

the power of poetry and song (the Christ-kenosis/self-emptying hymn)

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:1-11

In Jeff Manion’s message to us this past weekend in the series “Choosing Joy Under Pressure,” through the book of Philippians, entitled “The Servant Mindset,” he touched on the power of song. Yes, most Bible scholars believe this was a hymn which Paul included in this letter. And that we do well to play that song again and again in our heads until it becomes the theme to which we live.

Notice that although it’s about Jesus, it is to be applied by us who are in Jesus in our individual lives, and in the context of the letter, especially in our relationships with each other. We are to take on ourselves the same humility and servant mindset that Jesus took on himself.

This doesn’t mean trying to perform great heroics. Of course what Jesus did in the eyes of the world was exactly the reverse of that. There was nothing more humbling than a cross, probably not much higher from ground level than one would stand, likely hung naked, and just outside the city where the populace could walk by, say anything they wanted to say, and spit in one’s face.

Jesus’s attitude was one of humility, service, and obedience. It ended up being great since he stooped to the greatest depths possible: God becoming human, and then subjecting himself as a man to the death of the cross, all out of love, as a servant. And for our salvation, but in this context specifically as the example we’re to follow. And therefore God raised Jesus to the highest heights, giving him the name above every name, so that all might bow the knee to him.

We do well to read both what precedes this poem, and what follows, the context, because this poem is followed by a “therefore” as well as the call to value others above ourselves.

But again, this needs to be the kind of song playing in our heads. Which acclimates us over time to grow in the depths of the life we’re to live in Jesus. Toward each other, and toward the world. In and through Jesus.

an Advent meditation: King Jesus took the lowest place

When we think of the Christmas story we can’t help but be taken back by the humble circumstance of Jesus’ birth. Even before that, his conception. Conceived by the Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary so that both Mary and Joseph were looked upon with askance in days to come. And then under difficult circumstances at last finding a manger, an animal’s feeding trough in Bethlehem where the newborn child was placed, wrapped in swaddling cloths.

And then, except for the temple incident at the age of twelve, Jesus is all but lost until he nears the age of thirty. What we gather later, he worked with his legal father as a carpenter (or stone cutter, whatever trade the word signifies), Jesus evidently carrying on that trade after Joseph died. And then at last around the age of thirty Jesus embarks in a ministry which itself was marked by humility (example: no place to lay his head, evidently no home of his own, or often living as if he had none). He had no credentials from the Jewish religious authorities. And he lived rather isolated, in Galilee, in lowly Nazareth and later in Capernaum, away from the great city, Mount Zion, Jerusalem. Although we know he took his humble ministry on the road with a notable time of it right there in the holy city.

And Jesus’ motley crew reminds me of a group of us. They hardly had it together and often seemed slow learners at best. And of course they weren’t trained or educated in the way that was expected in those days. Even though Jesus was known as a Rabbi even by those who opposed him.

Jesus’ way from conception and birth to death was marked by a humility that was often an affront to the leaders.

Jesus’ humility was marked in specific ways. He taught  his disciples that the greatest among them would be the least and like the lowest of servants, and he exemplified that when he washed their feet, something only the lowest of slaves would ever do. This was the life they were to live in following him, a life marked by love.

And we know the end again, the death of the cross. But we also know that wasn’t the end.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: