In the midst of singing carols, decorating trees, exchanging gifts, feasting on pastries and roasted meats, and gathering together with other believers-in person or online-to worship the One Who was born 2 centuries ago, there is a deeper, and more profound aspect of Christmas, which is beyond our comprehension. It is a theological description recorded by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Philippi. “He emptied Himself.
Hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah revealed this prophecy in 7:14,”Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (NASB). This verse was quoted in Matthew 1:23, where the definition of the Hebrew name, Immanuel, is translated as, “God with us.” The miraculous birth of Jesus by a virgin is defined by theologians as the “incarnation”, which means “God becoming flesh”. “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14a, NASB). The term for this miracle is the “hypostatic union”. It is defined as “the mystical union of Christ’s humanity and divinity in one individual existence”.
Now that we have delved into an incomprehensible truth, the question arises as to the motivation and sacrifice inherent with the incarnation. We have a simple answer to the motivation in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (ESV). Other centered, unselfish and unconditional love was the untarnished motivation of the Father to send His Son. It was also the motivation of the Son as explained by Paul in Philippians 2:3-8, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not [merely] look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, [and] being made in the likeness of men.” Paul describes the attitude of Christ Jesus as humbling Himself by regarding us as more important than Himself. He went to the extreme of denying all His glory as the eternal, immortal, sovereign God and taking on the form of a sinless, mortal, human being. His decision was motivated by agape love, that inherent attribute which defined Him.
He emptied Himself. Did that mean that the Son of God discarded His deity during the time He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary and walked the earth for some 33 years until He voluntarily died on a cross? Not at all! It meant that He stepped out of the perfect realm of Heaven into the realm of sinful humankind. It meant that the Creator moved in with His creation for a time. It meant that He left behind the environment of being in the very throne room of the Triune God, with all of its glory, into a corrupt environment of hatred and evil, the kingdom of the god of this world, Satan. The term used by Paul, “emptied himself,” has been defined by Dr. Charles C. Ryrie, “His incarnation does not mean that He surrendered any attributes of deity, but that He took on the limitations of humanity. This involved a veiling of His preincarnate glory and the voluntary waiving of some of His divine prerogatives during the time He was on earth.” I cannot imagine what that meant personally to my Lord. The Son of God, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit are the focal point of the universe. To voluntarily remove Himself from that glory, that incomprehensible fullness of being, is beyond our comprehension. The Godhead is to receive all glory and honor based upon the fact that the Triune God is before all, and in all, and will be forevermore, the only true God.
Imagine Queen Elizabeth voluntarily moving out of Buckingham Palace, becoming an insignificant, homeless, impoverished woman in an obscure village in England. Imagine what she would feel like in that environment after having been served hand and foot since she was a child in the royal family. That will never compare to what it was like for the Son of God. The most profound truth of all this is in the purpose of our Savior and His resulting reward. “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:8-9, NASB) BOW DOWN TODAY AND WORSHIP HIM!
Bill Olsen, Elder