“But He emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7 ESV)
- Bennathaniel H. Diengdoh
When you hold an infant, you may be made to marvel not only at the miracle that is the life that is there nestled in your arms, but also at the sheer fragility, vulnerability and utter helplessness that a baby embodies. Infants are completely unable to help themselves, in every sense of the phrase. They cannot feed, clothe, wash or look after themselves in any other way. At the most, they can cry and soil themselves. Their autonomy is severely limited if not altogether non-existent, and they exercise sovereignty over nothing. They are utterly dependent on their parents.
However, while we may wonder at the miracle that is a child,we should find it even more amazing that the Second Person in the Trinity, God the Son Himself, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Transcendent, Eternal, The Logos, through whom all creation was made (John 1:1), chose to enter into creation, not in all His glory, but as a child, an infant, born of an average young woman, vulnerable, helpless, frail, utterly dependent.
In Philippians 2:7 (ESV), the Apostle Paul writes, Jesus “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” But what does this mean? The Nicene Creed affirms Jesus Christ as God the Son, who is “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten,not made, consubstantial with the Father” (The NiceneCreed).The phrase “begottennot made” here means that Jesus is pre-existent and uncreated, not a createdbeing. He is thus Eternal,as the Father is. The Greek term which has been translated as “consubstantial” is homoousios which may be understood as describing two or more persons being one essence, and of one Being. This denotes the oneness of essence but plurality of personhood that characterises the Triune Godhead. In other words, God the Son, is fully God, and thus is possessed of all the attributes of divinity, and yet, he chose to set aside much of those attributes and become a man in the Person of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, taking on the vulnerabilities and frailties that come with being human. He set aside his omnipotence and settled for fragile flesh. He set aside his omnipresence, and, in becoming said flesh, lived as a man in a particular place, in Palestine. He set aside his transcendence and entered into time, living at a particular point in human history. He set aside his sovereignty over all things,and lived under the authority of flawed human rulers. He set aside all of his power, and was born an infant, unable even to feed himself, completely dependent on his parents and those around him. He, the God of all creation, enthroned in majesty and unfathomable splendour above all things living and not living, matter and spirit, humbled himself, and came down to meet his fallen creatures, and to identify with us in our frailty, with the one difference being that he alone, unlike us, was not fallen, he alone, was without sin. He became one of us, to live the life we all should have lived and died the death we all deserved so that we might get the chance to live an eternal life with him, one we could never attain on our own.
While we may never fully understand the mystery of Jesus’ dual nature in this life, we cannot but marvel at the truth, that He chose to set aside much of his divine attributes, to become flesh, to be born as an infant, to hunger and thirst,and be unable to look after himself,to have to be fed and clothed and bathed, to be utterly dependent on his mother and father. His birth marked the beginning of a new family, for Mary and Joseph. And by doing so, he extolled the importance of family. And when he grew into adulthood, he hungered and thirsted (John 4:5-6; 19:28) as we do, he experienced weariness (John 4:5-6) as we do, and anxiety (Luke 22:44) as we do, and grief (John 11:35) as we do. Perhaps most importantly of all, He bled, as we do, but he bled the blood that sealed the new covenant (Mathew 26:27-28; 1 Cor 11:25) assured us believers of the forgiveness of our sins and of salvation that he bestows upon those who believe upon him, by his grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). By His death and resurrection, He made possible our entry into God’s divine family, as sons and daughters by adoption. No longer strangers are we to God, but children, no longer is God distant or far removed from us, but he has now drawn near in Christ, “the Image of the Invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), by virtue of whom, God is now our Father.
Dare I say, that while we were bestowed with immeasurable dignity by God, being made in His Image, that worth was emphasized even more, when God chose to become one of us, in the Person of Jesus Christ. We can weep freely because Jesus wept. We can be open with our anxieties because he too was anxious. We can rest because Jesus too grew weary and rested. We can depend on God our Father, because Jesus too, in his earthly life and ministry was dependent on, and subordinate to the Father (John 14:28; Phil 2:5-11). We rely on the Spirit to guide, comfort,and embolden us to live and preach the Gospel because Jesus too was led by the Spirit ((Mathew 4:1; 12:28; Luke 4:1) and promised that the Spirit would come to have fellowship with us (John 14:16,26). And one day, we will rejoice with him when he returns in power to make all things new; for all that he did: his life, death and resurrection were so that we sinners, might be saved and thus share in God’s glory and become His righteousness (2 Cor 5:21).
And, what should amaze us more is that, as Paul writes, it was for our sake that Jesus did so, “though he was rich, yet for [our] sake he became poor, so that [we] by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor 8:0 ESV).For as Jesus Himself said,“the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mathew 20:28 ESV).
This Christmas, let us reflect on the greatest miracle, that God the Son set aside his glory to become one of us, being born as an infant, vulnerable, helpless, utterly dependent, that through His life, death and resurrection, we might be given salvation by His grace through faith. Have a Blessed Christmas. Amen.
Bah Bennathaniel H. Diengdoh i dei u dkhot ka Jingiaseng Samla Balang Presbyterian Jaiaw. I dei ruh u dkhot ka Editorial Board, Lam Jingshai E-Newsletter. I trei kum u nonghikai ha Shillong College, Environmental Science Department, bad i shong ha Umsohkhlur, Mawlai Mawroh