November 29, 2020
The Character of Christ — Philippians 2:5-11
Dr. Larry S. Lightner
Read Philippians 2:5-11
In the way we measure time, it is eternity applied to our thinking that depicts the years prior to the birth of Jesus on earth. Jesus was already equal with the Father. In all ways, Jesus is God.
Several of the 33 devotionals you will receive from November 29-December 31 will reference hymns we sing in the church—some that seem strictly hymns of Christmas. Some are historical hymns of the church. Today, we get a glimpse of a historical hymn.
One of my favorite books is one that has a collection of hymn history. It belonged to my dad. It holds precious memories for me as I can still hear my dad playing his instruments and singing the hymns. Dad kept his file of newspaper hymn columns inside that book as well. It is on loan right now, but it is not hard to bring up the hymns in my heart and mind. The hymn I am thinking of today is one of Emily Elliott’s great works. Elliott often wrote to grab the attention of children living on the darkened streets of England. She was always challenged to write songs for the Christmas holidays that would draw children to the Savior.
One year, as she prepared to write, her heart drifted to help children understand who Jesus is and for the children to get a glimpse of why Jesus came to earth. Emily knew that Jesus did not begin at the manger; there is a story behind His coming. So, she reaches back.
Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.
At first glance, one would not associate the hymn with the understanding level of children. The hymn was indeed written for children, and the intent was to sing the hymn in the Sunday School. Even in those difficult times of war, disease, and corruption, life forged ahead. Nothing could retard the outreach of the church to the children of the streets; it was important to share the truth of the Gospel. The truth pointed to our great treasure—the truth that God’s Christmas account did not begin on Christmas Day in Nazareth, or in Bethlehem. The event started in the past, eternity past, in the presence of the Father.
One of the things we were taught in seminary is the importance of words, especially the action words. In Philippians 2 there is a honing in upon the word, “leave.” Emily uses the word to introduce her “Christmas” hymn. Jesus left in order to come here. We read about what He left, but we do not often really think of what He gave up coming here. Jesus was honored in His past, yet He gives it up to leave. We are told what He left, but we need to stop and consider what He left. History opens a wealth of truth to help us understand the prices paid for Jesus to come for our need.
Jesus reflects great values in character of our holy God. Those characters are found in at least four ways Jesus imitates His Father:
- Jesus mirrors His Father’s performing – Jesus is a servant as His Father is a servant (Philippians 2:5)
- Jesus mirrors His Father as the One who functions fully as God, our Father in heaven (Philippians 2:6)
- Jesus mirrors His Father as fully sacrificial – He did not focus solely upon his equality with God as a “thing” to be grasped but acted to give of Himself for the benefit of those the godhead loves. (Philippians 2:7)
- Jesus mirrors His Father to empty Himself—it is not simply about Himself, but about becoming a bond-servant; made in the likeness of man. (Philippians 2:7-8)
When we come to Christ, the Bible speaks to us (it is God, speaking to us). It is God’s intention that we become mirrors of our heavenly Father. In fact, the expectation is that [our] attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus [has] (Philippians 2:5).
When we come to Christ, there are expectations; His own are to mirror God’s expectations in our functions. Though He was God, He did not demand and cling to His rights as God (Philippians 2:6).
His own mirror the Father’s actions of life; not self-focused, nor producing lists of anticipated rewards due. It is a life that is self-sacrificing. He made of Himself nothing (Philippians 2:7)
When we come to Christ, the Bible speaks to us as expectant of our mirroring Him with a character that places others first. He took the position of a slave . . .. and in human form he obediently humbled Himself, even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross (Philippians 2:7-8).
What does this all mean for you and I? It is much more than a baby born in a manger. Jesus exists prior to His birth on earth. Prior to His conception (John 1:1). Then, also, His existence is an eternal existence. Christ is. He always was, is, and always will be (Micah 5:2).
Jesus did not simply (or just) show up in Bethlehem. He did not come into being only at the movement of the Holy Spirit. But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village in Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.
Jesus has always existed.
What is it that you will do with that? How will you mirror the truths? Is the truth more than just greeting on your holiday cards for Christmas time? Is it important for us all year ’round? Should these truths make a difference in our conversations throughout the Christmas season and throughout the year?
We will be traveling 33 days in focusing upon His Advent – looking at our Hope in Him, His Love for us, the Father’s Joy to send His Son, God’s Peace available because of Christ, and conclude with the Hope that is Still to Come.
I trust you will join with me and Bo Nelson as we travel the road of God’s provision. I am trusting that we will all be drawn closer to Him this Advent season of 2020; I trust that in this memorable year of difficult times, we all will stop and thank our great God for His provision in the midst of a difficult world.