By Dr. Nate Lowe, President of the Run Hard. Rest Well. Board of Directors and professor at Indiana Wesleyan University
Each year at Christmas time I latch onto some concept that has never occurred to me before. This year it is the wonder of God becoming human.
“Being born in the likeness of men.” From The Message, Philippians 2:7 says it like this: “Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process.” No doubt.
I’ve often thought how underwhelming it was that a multitude of angels announced the birth of the Messiah, the incarnation of God, the Redeemer of the world to a few lowly shepherds on a dark hillside. This year, I am wondering if the incarnation was even smaller and lowlier than that. If life begins at conception, then the incarnation actually happened in complete silence and complete darkness. No angel choirs. No thunder, lightning, or fire from heaven. There was zero physical evidence of this time-altering event. Other than visits from Gabriel (one of which was in a dream), Mary and Joseph had no evidence to prove this miracle to themselves, much less to anyone else. What was to be the evidence that Mary could hold onto until her own baby bump started to grow? Only that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant, which would have been a baffling explanation to her friends and family.
Human and divine cells implanted precariously in Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit is how the incarnation happened. I don’t think there is anything smaller or quieter than this. And the “how” matters. Why did God do it this way? Silent and Still and Slow. Completely undetected. What was the lead-up to this incarnation? 400 years of silence from heaven. Generation after generation waiting for the Messiah. And then nine more months of silent waiting until his lowly birth in a Bethlehem stable. And then 30 years of relative silence, other than an escape trip to Egypt and a missing child report on the way home from Jerusalem. Most of His time on Earth was obscure and unspectacular. Kind of like mine.
God invites us to embrace silence and stillness as He did. Ignore the show and the lights and the noise vying for your attention. Be still and know me. Trust me. Learn to hear my whisper. Walk with me in the darkness – through the valley of the shadow of death. I’m right here. I have you. I love you. The incarnation is not a one-off. It is a display of His nature. It seems to be the primary way he relates to humans, and primarily how we relate to Him.
This Christmas season, find some time to be quiet and still. Maybe even in the dark. Maybe with only the lights of the tree after everyone else has gone to bed or before they all wake up. Find a space or two or three for you and God just to be still and quiet and aware of each other’s presence. See what happens. If it is good, or even if it is not at first, make it a practice in the coming year. If we are called to “have this attitude in ourselves”, then we should be able to come down, slow down, and settle down like He did. Especially at Christmastime.
Philippians 2:5-7 reminds us, Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, as He already existed in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself by taking the form of a bond-servant and being born in the likeness of men.