There is a lot of hype to the holidays; we buy presents, we attend countless parties and holiday events, we travel to see relatives, we stress ourselves out trying to get ready for Christmas. For many, this season can be overwhelming because of all we have to get done.
This week, I read about a young mother who was having a bad day. Her phone rang and a kindly voice on the other end said, "How are you, sweetheart? What kind of day are you having?" "Oh, Mother," said the woman, "I'm having such a bad day. The baby won't eat, the washing machine broke down, the house is a mess, I haven't had a chance to go Christmas shopping, and we're having two couples over for dinner tonight." The mother was overwhelmed with sympathy. "Oh, honey," she said, "sit down, relax, and close your eyes. I'll be over in half an hour. You can go shopping. I'll clean the house and cook your dinner for you. I'll feed the baby, and I'll call a repairman to fix the washing machine. Now stop crying. I'll do everything. In fact, I'll even call John at the office and ask him to come home and help out." "John?" said the housewife. "Who's John?" "Why, John! Your husband!... Isn't this 555-1265?" "No, it's 555-1264." "Oh," said the kindly person, "I must have the wrong number." There was pause. Then the helpless woman asked, "Does this mean you're not coming over?"
When we have needs, it's nice to know that someone cares enough about us to be willing to help. Well, that is what Christmas is all about. Christmas is God demonstrating his love for us by sending his son to die to meet our greatest need - the payment of our sin debt.
Historians will someday look back at this century and note that more profound changes occurred in history, technology, world affairs, and culture than in any other century.
Yet, history reveals many epoch events: Rome recognizing Christianity in 303 A. D., the fall of Rome in 476 A. D., the Norman Conquest of England in 1066., the first book printing on the Gutenberg Press in 1453., Columbus' discovery of America in 1492. There was the American Revolution in 1776. Researchers in New Mexico unveil atomic energy in 1945. Man walks on the moon in 1969. These are all remarkable events but none had the historical impact to divide all of history into two everlasting segments; B. C. (before Christ) and A. D. (the year of our Lord). This event was the birth of a tiny baby in a manger. His name is Jesus. The name "Jesus" is the New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament name Joshua; it means "Savior." Many people know the baby in the manger by the name Jesus, but do they know the Man at the right hand of God the Father as Savior and Lord?
The message of Christmas is simple yet profound. It speaks to the simple and astounds theologians with the mystery of the incarnation.
Harry Reasoner, the late ABC and CBS journalist, once wrote "Christmas moves beyond all logic. It must be either entire falsehood or the truest thing in all the world. It demands acceptance that the God of all creation came to this world in the form of a baby - that premise is so shocking that if it is not true, nothing else in all of Christianity is true".
George Cagey has written, "the teaching of the incarnation is crucial to the Christian faith. Cagey states, "If this fact is not true, then we must face the clear alternative that we cannot know how to be saved, how to live or even how to think about God".
This truth is the most important truth in all of Christian faith. It is a point that must continue to be made in society. Winston Churchill once said, "If you have an important point to make, don't be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit it once. Hit it again. Then hit it a third time with a tremendous whack!"
With the mass commercialization of Christmas, the church must hit this truth with a tremendous whack, and declare to the world what Christmas really was - the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
I want us to look this morning at a majestic text that describes the condescension of the second person of the trinity into human incarnation. It is the single greatest passage in the New Testament on God becoming man.
Philippians 2:5-11 (NKJV) 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This passage teaches the staggering truth that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man. As John puts it in 1:14, "The Word was made flesh." God became a man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wiggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child.
C. S. Lewis, in his book "Mere Christianity", in the chapter called "The Obstinate Toy Soldier," said this: "The Eternal Being who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but before that a baby, and before that a fetus inside a woman's body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab."
The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets-- God became a man! Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the incarnation. What do you know about Jesus Christ? What can you tell me about Him? We must understand that Christianity is not a lifestyle-- it's not about how you live and what you do; Christianity is a relationship with the Person of Jesus Christ. Do you know Him?
Let's look at the doctrine of the INCARNATION:
John 1:14 (NKJV) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
The "Word became flesh" has been expressed by the theological term "Incarnation," which comes from two Latin words "in" plus "cargo" meaning: "infleshment, the act of assuming flesh." God chose to become united to true humanity. The incarnation came about through the miracle of the virgin birth.
Matthew 1:18-23 (NKJV) Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."
At the incarnation, God the Son, the Second person of the one triune God, was forever joined to true humanity.
Jesus Christ is 100% God and 100% man. Jesus Christ is the God-Man. He is One person with two natures.
This union is proved by the personal propositions, that is, the passages in which with reference to the incarnate Christ, it is said that God is man and man is God.
Matthew 16:13-17 (NKJV) When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" 14 So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
What did people think of Jesus? This passage gives us some insight into what people thought of Him. You might be surprised at how the people of Christ's time viewed Him. Some thought he was John the Baptist-- a hell, fire, and damnation preacher, who called people vipers! Some thought he was Elijah-- you wouldn't want to be around him if your life wasn't right. He confronted King Ahab, "You are the one troubling Israel." No more rain! In 2 Kings 1, Elijah calls down fire and kills 102 men. Some were saying Jesus was Elijah. Some said he was Jeremiah -- He was the gentle weeping prophet. Jesus embodied all the prophets.
15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17 Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
Jesus asks, "Who do they say that I, the Son of man, am?" Peter answered, "Your are the Christ, the Son of the living God." So here we see the humanity and deity of Christ.
Why was it a necessity for Jesus Christ to have two natures in one person? Bancroft writes, "The union of two natures in one person is necessary to constitute Jesus Christ a proper mediator between man and God. His twofold nature gives Him fellowship with both parties, since it involves an equal dignity with God and at the same time perfect sympathy with man:
Hebrews 4:15-16 (NKJV) For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
This twofold nature, moreover, enables Him to present to both God and man proper terms of reconciliation. Being man, He can make atonement for man; being God, His atonement has infinite value."
As man, He knows experientially what you're going through, and as God, He can get you through it.
Why did the Second person of the trinity leave heaven's glory and become incarnate?
Matthew 20:28 (NKJV) "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
He is God, it would only be right that we serve Him. But He came to "minister" -- He came to serve us and give His life to pay our sin debt. He was concerned with our needs. We needed salvation and He provided it at great cost to himself.
Philippians 2:6 (NKJV) who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,
This verse answers the question, "What was Christ like before his incarnation?" The word "being" is the Greek word huparcho, it is a verb that stresses the essence of a person's nature, it is to express the continued state of a thing, it is unalterable and unchangeable. Paul said, "Jesus Christ unalterably and unchangeably exists in the form of God." This speaks of his pre-existence. Paul is saying that Jesus Christ has always existed in the unchangeable essence of the being of God. Jesus Christ is God and always was. This is the heart and soul of the Christian faith-- Jesus Christ is God.
Jesus Christ is eternal God; as part of the Trinity, He always existed, He is co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
Micah 5:2 (NKJV) "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting."
This one who is to be born in Bethlehem is eternal. The only person that is eternal is God. Jesus Christ is eternal God.
John 1:1-3 (NKJV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
"The beginning" is before all beginnings, prior to the beginning of Genesis 1:1. The phrase could be rendered "from all eternity." John, in this verse, establishes the preexistence of Christ in eternity past. He already "was" when the beginning took place.
So in verse 6, we see the deity of Jesus Christ. Then in verses 7 and 8, we see his Humiliation. In these verses we see seven steps downward from the glory of heaven to the cross of Calvary.
Philippians 2:7 (NKJV) but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.
Step 1. " but made Himself of no reputation"
The word "reputation" is the Greek word kenoo, it means: "to make empty." Figuratively, it means: "to abase, naturalize, to make of none effect, of no reputation."
Reputation is the estimation in which a person or thing is commonly held. It seems so many Christians spend their whole life trying to build a reputation - we promote ourselves, we display and talk about our attributes. We hang on and fight for our rights. But Christ, who is our example, emptied himself to minister to others.
Step 2. He took "the form of a bondservant."
This phrase explains how he emptied himself "by" taking the form of a bondservant. When he took the form of a bondservant, it veiled his glory. That is how he emptied himself.
The word "form" is morphe which means: "essential nature." This is not a mask or Halloween costume, he didn't pretend he was a servant. In his essential nature, he became a servant. He took the essence of a bondslave.
In verse 6, we see that Christ was in the "form of God" -- which refers to the possession of the essential attributes of deity. In verse 7, He takes the "form of a bondslave" -- the slavery of a person who has submitted himself to a master in order to do his will in every respect.
In verse 6, we see the inner essence of God-- nature of deity. In verse 7, we see the inner essence of humanity -- nature humanity. Was Jesus Christ God or man? Yes! He was 100% God and 100% man -- undiminished deity and true humanity in one person forever.
He became a dulos -- he came to do God's will.
Matthew 20:28 (NKJV) "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
This is God voluntarily becoming a servant for us. A.W. Pink says this, "What marvelous grace we behold in that wondrous decent from heaven's throne to Bethlehem's manger! It had been an act of infinite condescension if the One who was the Object of angelic worship had deigned to come down to this earth and reign over it as King; but that He should appear in weakness, that He should voluntarily choose poverty, that He should become a helpless Babe-- such grace is altogether beyond our ken; such matchless love passeth knowledge. O that we may never lose our sense of wonderment at the infinite condescension of God's Son."
Step 3. "Coming in the likeness of men."
The word "coming" emphasizes the notion of becoming, of a beginning. Do you see the contrast here from verse 6, "being"? Christ always existed in the form of God (verse 6), but he came into existence in the likeness of men.
The word "likeness" is homoioma which suggests similarity but difference. Though his humanity was genuine, he was different from all other humans in that he was sinless. We see this same Greek word in -
Romans 8:3 (NKJV) For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,
Jesus Christ had real human flesh-- he felt pain, sorrow; wept; died; but he was sinless.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Jesus Christ was a man, sharing all the aspects of our humanity except for sin.
Philippians 2:8 (NKJV) And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Step 4. "And being found in appearance as a man."
The word "appearance" is schema-- "outer appearance." People saw him only as a man. Christ gave up the outward appearance of God (schema), but not the essence (morphe) of God. His glory was veiled, and he looked like a man.
The reality of his humanity is emphasized in this verse. Our Lord possesses true humanity, which is just as important as his deity. To make atonement, he had to be a Theanthropic person.
We see his humanity all through the New Testament. He had a human birth; his conception wasn't human, but his birth was. He came through the birth canal and was wet and wrinkled like any other baby. Martin Luther wrote in his hymn, "The little Lord Jesus no crying He makes." Is that true? No! He was a normal baby - he cried. I'm sure he kept Mary up at night crying. It's not a sin to cry. He had human growth and development. He grew up just like any other human being.
Luke 2:40 (NKJV) And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
Luke 2:52 (NKJV) And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
At the age of 12, he astounded scholars in the temple -- He was sinless. Just think what you could have done at 12 if you didn't have a sin nature! He had human experiences-- emotions, feeling, desires, and needs. He was hungry, thirsty, weary; he sorrowed and wept. He had a human relationship with God. Jesus said:
Luke 18:1 (NKJV) Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,
Prayer is the necessary activity of a man who stands in a right relationship to God. Jesus prayed, why? He needed to, he was dependant upon God in his humanity.
His ministry was marked with the repeated necessity of making choices, and he always made the right choice. Of all men who ever lived, he alone could say, "I do always those things that please the Father" (John 8:29). These choices were very real and involved the exercise of his will.
If Jesus Christ was dependant upon God for all he did, how much more should we be?
Step 5. "He humbled Himself."
We think of the humiliation as God becoming man, but the point of humiliation is from his status as man. Thirty years of preparation under discipline. The God-man spent thirty years in preparation for three years of ministry.
"And became obedient to the point of death." The main verb is "humbled himself." How did he do this? By becoming obedient. That is the best way to become humble-- by obedience. There is no humility like that that is produced by obedience to the Bible.
Step 6. "Obedient to the point of death."
It was to the will of God that the obedience was given, and even when that will pointed to suffering and death, he accepted it. "Not my will," he said to his heavenly Father, "But your will be done" (Luke 22:42). Can you say that? "Your will be done"; is that your attitude toward God?
Step 7. "Even the death of the cross."
The word "even" calls attention to the shocking form of death. When we think of "Cross," we think -- torture, but there are worse tortures. The point here is that the shame of the cross is worse than the physical agony.
There was no greater way in which people of the first century could express their utter disgust with a human being than by crucifying them. It was the chief, the most extreme form of human degradation that existed. It was in the fullest sense of the word, an obscenity. In polite Roman society, the word "cross" was an obscenity, not to be uttered in conversation. Cicero said, "Let the very name of the cross be far removed not only from the body of a Roman citizen, but even from his thoughts, his eyes, his ears." By Jewish law, anyone who was crucified died under the curse of God.
Galatians 3:13 (NKJV) Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"),
This utterly vile form of punishment was that which Jesus endured, and by enduring it, he turned that shameful instrument of torture into the object of his follower's proudest boast.
Why did Christ do it? To be our substitute!
Romans 5:8 (NKJV) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
He died for US! What began in Bethlehem was finished at Calvary. Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world. Jesus did all the work, all we need do is trust what He did.
This is what Christmas is all about - God providing payment for our sin debt. This is the greatest gift. The gift of Jesus.
Matthew 1:21 (NKJV) "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins."
There are people all around us who are looking for someone who cares. They need hope. They need peace. They may not even know it. Why not share with them God's gift of Jesus?