………… as applied to our attitudes and actions.
The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had:
He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God. Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death—his death on the cross. (Philippians 2: 5-8, Good News Translation)
Christmas to me is a time of contrast, and to some degree, conflict. There are aspects that are wonderful – the carols heard on the radio and even in the shopping malls, the impetus for people to be caring and generous, the parties, the celebrations, the time set aside with both our extended family and our church family – all good things.
On the other hand, I am greatly disturbed by the continual pressure to buy more and more products, the substitution of celebrating the greatest act of love in human history with crass commercialism based upon a promotional creation of Coca-cola! What should be a reflective time of thankfulness for God’s incredible and unfathomable act of love toward us becomes instead a time of surface, frenetic frenzy. Howard Nemerov, Poet Laureate (1988) of the United States, articulates the way I often feel at Christmas time:
Somewhere on his travels the strange Child
Picked up with this overstuffed confidence man,
Affection’s inverted thief, who climbs at night
Down chimneys, into dreams, with this world’s goods.
Bringing all the benevolence of money,
He teaches the innocent to want, thus keeps
Our fat world rolling. His prescribed costume,
White flannel beard, red belly of cotton waste,
Conceals the thinness of essential hunger,
An appetite that feeds on satisfaction;
Or, pregnant with possessions, he brings forth
Vanity and the void. His name itself
Is corrupted, and even Saint Nicholas, in his turn,
Gives off a faint and reminiscent stench,
The merest soupcon, of brimstone and the pit.
Now, at the season when the Child is born
To suffer for the world, suffer the world,
His bloated Other, jovial satellite
And sycophant, makes his appearance also
In a glitter of goodies, in a rock candy glare.
Played at the better stores by bums, for money,
This annual savior of the economy
Speaks in the parables of the dollar sign:
Suffer the little children to come to Him.
At Easter, he’s anonymous again,
Just one of the crowd lunching on Calvary.
Even as I read this again, anger and frustration wells up within me – is this what Christmas should be about? Is this a godly attitude for me to have? Well, if I look at the text at the top of this rambling, I am found greatly wanting. What attitude should I have rather than anger and frustration at this time of the year?
The text is so profound that it is difficult to comprehend - our attitude should be the same as Christ’s, … and then the author goes on to explain what God did, starting at Christmas with the birth of Christ. God left his position of extreme power and of his own free will became a man and was humble to the point of dying a criminal’s death! What an incredible picture of love! This, to me, is the text of Christmas application.
The story of what God is an illustration of what we should express both in attitude and actions – a difficult, yes impossible task without our allowing God to empower us to do so.
At Christmas time, take time to reflect upon the incredible act of love that we are celebrating. What are the ramifications of applying what is written in Philippians to the way we act? Are we willing to leave our positions of wealth and power to humble ourselves to serve others as Christ did? Do our actions demonstrate this internal attitude of love and humility?