More than 2,000 years ago, Jesus emptied Himself of the privileges of divinity and broke into a world not unlike the world of our day. There was political, social, economic and religious upheaval and uncertainty. At John’s birth, his father, Zechariah, prophesied about his son: “You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” As we read in John’s Gospel, a world enveloped by spiritual darkness was about to be radically transformed by the arrival of the One who would give “life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.” Praise God! “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”
Jesus’ arrival was a precursor of His second coming at the end of the age. We live in this already/not yet season as we await Jesus’ return and the consummation of God’s purposes. And just as John had his work laid out for him – to prepare the way for the Lord, we too have our calling – “to make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, [and teaching] these new disciples to obey all the commands [Jesus had given].”
One of the great themes associated with the first arrival of Jesus celebrated at Christmas is that of emptying. Mary empties herself of all the hopes and dreams of a young maiden about to be married so she can bear a baby who will be holy and called the Son of God. Her response to God: “I am the Lords’ servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” Joseph too, empties himself. Faced with scandalous circumstances and a reputation to be preserved, Joseph did not break his engagement with Mary as he had planned. Rather, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.
When Joseph and Mary arrive in Bethlehem, there was no lodging available for them, so Mary gives birth to Jesus, laying him in a manger. As Christmas plays affirm, there was no room for him in the inn.
And Jesus empties Himself. “Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.” Essential to the Good News is the willingness of the One who had everything to lay it all down and take our place so that we could experience salvation!
So it is not surprising that Jesus declared, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”
Most likely, you too have heard God’s call to empty yourself so that you can be a vessel God can use to reach a lost world with His redeeming love. This Christmas, we are grateful for people like you who understand the true meaning of Christmas. We are grateful for those, like you, who are willing to be emptied so that the power of God may take up residence in their lives.
On behalf of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, I wish you a Merry Christmas! What a joy it is to partner with you in striving to be God’s instruments to reach a lost world with His love, hope and new life. May God renew you in this season and fill you with fresh vision for His plans and purposes yet to be realized.
by Keith Boyette