How easily we can miss the significance of the choice God made to humble Himself and choose to come to earth in human flesh to show us what mankind had been missing for thousands of years about how great was his love, grace, and mercy. Somehow, we think of it at Easter on the cross as He hung there without considering what is beyond our imagination to consider about his choice to come to earth as a baby in the humblest of places.
The nativity scenes we set up during the season of Advent are so pristine compared to the reality of that manger where Mary and Joseph first laid Him. Any farmer would tell you in vivid detail the sounds and smells that would have surrounded them. Stables smelled of hay and straw (both old and new) and of the dirty stalls of the animals that spent time there. Dust was everywhere. It was not pretty or clean.
How like Him to come into the mess of such a place! He comes into the mess of our lives and chooses to live within us when we accept Him.
It wasn’t just on the cross that He showed his love in his humility. But none of us mortals are very good at humility if we’re gut-wrenchingly honest.
“Humility looks like caring for others more than we care about ourselves. It is looking beyond ourselves and recognizing the beauty around us. Humility keeps the spotlight on Jesus. When we shine it on ourselves, it reflects the flaws and messiness that Jesus has already redeemed through His death on the cross.”Mary Geisen in The Advent Narrative
Perhaps our struggle with humility is not only about pride, but our unwon battle with selfishness that requires us to lay down our lives for others as Jesus so clearly showed us and still shows us each day. Maybe we don’t spend enough time looking in the mirror of the Word and seeing ourselves as accurately or clearly as we ought.
Over and over again humility is the convicting message of that first Advent. It was the manger, the humblest of parents chosen to be the earthly parents of Jesus, and it was the shepherds who were considered lowly in that culture who were first blessed to hear the news and see this babe in the manger who had come to save them. Consider who God honored with this privilege we read about – shepherds of all people, not the religious leaders of the day, not the chief rabbi of the town – shepherds.
This Advent that may seem constricted gives us space to make room for Him in our hearts and enter into the scene more deeply and personally, to finally grasp just a bit more than we have had time for other years when we were out doing more, busier with the seasonal traditions we loved. It can serve as a time to consider with greater anticipation the Second Advent yet to come and where we are in that journey.
“A life worth living takes us on a journey of preparing well. But it is not just the preparation and awakening of our hearts. God leads us through the “not yet” as a challenge and call to let Him dive deep into our very core. He wants our faith to look like the roller coaster ride that we hold onto for dear life because we don’t know what else to do. It is wondering and believing for more. It is saying “yes” when we prefer the “no.” God knows, and whether the path feels comfortable and familiar or takes us off road on the adventure of our lives, He is with us in every step forward and backward.”Mary Geisen in The Advent Narrative
This year when we are less busy is perhaps when we ought to remove the masks we can often wear when we spend time with the Lord, the masks that we foolishly use to be less honest and real with Him than He deserves or that we need to be in order to lead a more sanctified and holy life. That would be humility.
“The first requirement in a personal relationship is to be ourselves. Off with the masks. Away with the pretense.”Eugene Peterson in Run with the Horses
This Advent season of 2020 is not without hope, not without promise. If it seems that way, where are we looking? The smelly dusty manger in the midst of a world ruled by the Roman Empire should adjust our perspective if we pause to really see it and enter into the story behind the scene our nativity sets depict.
“The best part of our God-driven stories is the hope that is ours every step of the way. It is ultimately the desire to end up at the manger to see Jesus and the gifts He left there for me and you. Max Lucado says it like this: “The path marked Humility will take you to the manger of the Messiah.”Mary Geisen in The Advent Narrative
The lowly shepherds became the first eyewitnesses of what God was doing. God has not stopped the story, his story, and we are eyewitnesses to what He is doing now in big and small things. We are part of the story.
How will we spread the word and share the story so that no one will miss the Second Advent because we were asleep or silent?