In the Incarnation, a fundamental aspect of our Lord’s character is revealed; his power is demonstrated in weakness, thereby revealing the true content of power as Almighty God himself wields it. St. Athanasius, in his homily on the Nativity, illustrates so potently the strange paradoxical reality:
"I see a wondrous mystery… I see him indwelling the Virgin without being confined! Don't ask me how, for whatever God wills the natural order obeys. Because He willed [to become incarnate] He managed to do so, He came and saved us. Come ye all and see: God Who is existent and from eternity has become today what He was not: For He Who is a God has become Man without ceasing to be God...The Ancient of Days has become a Child! He Who sits on the throne of highness has been placed in a manger! He Who has no beginning and is bodiless, was wrapped by human hands. He Who absolves the ties of sin has become wrapped in swaddling clothes. For He has willed it to be so!"
Truly our Lord, boundless but wrapped in swaddling clothes, turns power on its head. In our culture, “power” and “glory” is so often defined as lording over, domineering, and control, but our Lord at his birth reveals true power to be utter self-emptying for another, yet without losing oneself. No human being on their own can achieve this kind of power, but our God has for it is proper to him.
It is only in this kind of self-offering where true glory is to be found, as St. Paul tells us:
“Christ, 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 2:6-11)
It is noteworthy that the grandest of all the New Testament’s summaries of our Lord’s humility should begin with a simple challenge: “In your relationships to one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5). That is a lesson for us today. As we celebrate our Lord’s Nativity, let us not forget that his grand display of power in a manger was a clarion call for us, in our own limited human capacities, to do likewise. So let us live into the true meaning of Christmas by humbling serving one another as our Lord so humbly served us.
It was a joy to celebrate our Lord’s Nativity with you all last evening. Katherine and I continue to be awed and humbled by your generosity and your open arms to us. It is a pleasure to worship our mighty God with you!
Blessings in the name of Jesus,