December 1

The Self-emptying of Jesus to Come for Us at Christmas

The Sunday after Thanksgiving I had the opportunity to preach twice in the Marquette Branch Prison.  Back in the 1990s the Pope made national news when he visited one of the worst prisons in Rome. It was the first time in ninety years that a pope had gone to a prison, and in greeting the prisoners he said, “You could not come to me, so I have come to you.”


That little incident illustrates the heart of the gospel—that we were desperate prisoners, condemned and locked up for crimes we have committed, who could not go to God and never had the hope of Him coming to us.  But in the person of His Son God did what we could not expect.  He came to us.  And He did more than just visit us; He ransomed us by the payment of His own blood for our crimes against Him.  What did it take for this to happen?


Philippians 2:5-8 answers that question with a very intriguing word.  The passage says that Christ Jesus emptied Himself.  Verse 7 reads, Who made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  The phrase “made himself nothing” comes from one Greek word—kenosis.  This passage is called “The Kenosis Passage” from this word.  And the question is “What did Christ empty Himself of in order to come to us as a man?”  Several answers can be given.


He never emptied Himself of His deity.  Verse 6 says that Christ was “in very nature God” in eternity past before the incarnation.  God can never become less than God or else He’s not God.  So the Son of God did not give up or empty Himself of any of His divine attributes.  The incarnation was not a giving up of His divine nature but the addition of a human nature.  Jesus was always fully God and fully man.


He left His exalted position in glory to take a lowly position on earth.  The hymn writer Francis Havergal captured it just right when she penned these words about Christ:  My Father’s house of light, My glory-circled throne, I left, for earthly night, For wand’ rings sad and lone; I left, I left it all for thee, Hast thou left aught for Me? (I Gave My Life for Thee, verse 2)


He subjected Himself to human weakness.  The only time Jesus used His divine powers was in subjection to the Father’s plan.  So He gave up the self-use of His attributes and subjected Himself to our human limitations.  So on one occasion He asked for a drink.  The Creator of the oceans was thirsty.  He was so weak after His beating that He fell under the crossbeam.  The One who made the elephant had no strength.  On another occasion He was so exhausted from work that He fell asleep in a boat.  The One who never sleeps or slumbers slept form exhaustion.  That’s how little He became.  Though he retained all the powers of the Father, He never exercised them for His personal use but lived with our limitations.


What is so astounding about this incomparable condescension is that Christ Jesus’ example is set before us to follow.  We are told in v. 5, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”   While Christmas is a time to celebrate the self-emptying of Christ for us, it is also a time to long to be more like Him—giving up our rights, humbling ourselves, serving others.  Hast thou left aught for Me?


Merry Christmas, Pastor Brian (:-}).