Bishop’s Christmas Message

Ancient writers often commented on a now often overlooked theme of the Christmas story: humility.  God’s humility, that is, in condescending to take on human flesh, human reality, in the person of Jesus Christ.  Luke’s story of Jesus’ birth, with the details of the long journey of the Holy Family, the stable and the manger bed, attempts to picture this humility with some force.  The Eternal God makes his home in the rudest of circumstances, as a vagrant and displaced person.  In this story, Luke gives us a breathtaking picture of Divine humility.

At the same time, the Gospel writer doesn’t let humility wander very far from “humiliation”.  We talk about humility easily, forgetting the connection.  The story of stable and manger is just a foreshadowing of Jesus’ cross and death, an even more unsettling story of God’s willingness to risk himself.  The Apostle Paul made the same point when he wrote, “Christ Jesus…emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:7-8).  Jesus’ humility involved self-offering, with profound consequences for himself.  This way of life began at the manger, with a humility willing to risk all in the most important project ever conceived.

Not the typical Christmas message, I’ll grant you.  But as we pause at the Christmas manger, let’s not forget the great distance God traveled, not just from Nazareth to Bethlehem, but more importantly from the heavenly throne to the human heart.  Let’s not forget the logic-twisting mercy of God, who becomes one of us in order to save us.  Let’s not forget God’s humility, which risked real humiliation in coming into the world to triumph over sin and death.  This is an amazing child, worthy of love, adoration, and worship.

  • The Rt. Rev'd John Bauerschmidt, Bishop of Tennessee