by Matthew C. Harrison
The Bible has many stunning, life-giving and life-changing passages about Christ taking on our human flesh to fulfill the Law, suffer in our stead, open heaven and give us eternal life. How I love Paul’s comments in Philippians 2!
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 [as did Satan!] but made himself nothing, 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. (Phil. 2:5–8)
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus …
You want to be a Christian? You believe in Jesus? Then be His disciple! So often I fail. I have negative thoughts when I am harassed by the world, or slandered and even lied about. It’s hard to forgive and overlook even minor mistakes or perceived slights. Yet Jesus prayed from the cross over those who had crucified Him, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24). All the wrong I’ve suffered is not but a speck on a speck compared to what Jesus suffered for me. Too often I sin against others in thought, word and deed and regard it as nothing. How shall I “have this mind?” Paul says, it “is yours in Christ Jesus.” O Lord, slay me! O Lord, bring me to nothing! O Lord, look not upon my plethora of sins! The “mind” that I need is “yours in Christ Jesus.” “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). I plunge my sins into the depths of Your wounds!
… who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped [as did Satan!] …
Christ did not say, “I’m the Son of God! Why should I take on the flesh of sinners! I’m co-eternal God, why should I be born to suffer? Why must I be placed in a lowly manger? Why should I be pursued by murderous Herod? Why must the Son of Man have no place to lay His head? Why the beatings? Why the crown of thorns? Why the ridicule? Why the nails? Why death?” He asked none of that.
… but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
Jesus “for the joy set before him, endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2). While I have wasted so much effort to “be something,” to “be someone,” to “be recognized,” my Savior made Himself nothing. He was born in my likeness, taking on the weakness of an embryo in the womb, born like any peasant — no, worse than a peasant. I want to “be something.” Christ willed for my sake to “make himself nothing.” I so like to be served. But Jesus took on the “form of a servant.” I don’t want to be anyone’s servant. He is the servant incarnate.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Cradle to cross, Jesus “humbled himself.” I find it hard to serve merely to the point of inconvenience. He serves me to the “point of death.” “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Forgive me, gracious babe of Bethlehem! Give me a heart of service after Your own! Help me overlook all sins against me, for I know I am such a sinner. Give me Your heart, O Jesus! I cling to Your cradle. I cling to Your Word. I cling to Your Baptism. I cling to Your Absolution. I cling to Your body and blood in the Sacrament. Give me your Christmas heart!
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior.” … Now, even though we are unable fully to grasp and comprehend this joy, we should at least partake of its fruit by becoming kinder, gentler people who bear our neighbor no grudge, yes, do good even to our enemies, remembering the role model that God himself became man …
Unto you is born a Savior. Whoever is not changed for the better by this word and made more godly, praising and thanking God; whoever does not relish this heavenly wine, nor have his heart warmed by this fire, to become kinder and gentler to his neighbor, him will the judge and hangman make more pious, for he’s beyond reprieve. The fact that he’s not set ablaze by this fire nor drawn by this heavenly wine — that Christ is our brother, yes, has become flesh and blood with us — plainly shows that he is a lost and condemned man. (Sermons of Martin Luther: House Postils [Baker, 1996], vol. 1, 118–19)
You have forgiven me, Jesus! Help me forgive! Change me for the better by Your Word! Make me to have Your mind! I praise and thank You! Make me kinder and gentler! I trust in You alone!
— Pastor Matthew Harrison