I have pulled out my Christmas sweater just for this occasion to celebrate with you the joy of the season and to ponder with you the greatness of the incarnation. One of those ways that I’ve been thinking about this year has actually been our time in China. As those of you who see this regularly know, I have been to China 30 times over the last 13 years, and there’s a lot of things there about China that are amazing to see.
One of the more humorous things is to go from Chinese to English on a sign. We actually have a name for this. We call it Chin-glish because it’s sort of like half Chinese and half English the way the signs come out. In many ways, this is a pointer toward the wonders of the incarnation itself. You may ask what the connection is. Well, I’m going to try to show you the connection by beginning by showing you some signs in Chinglish.
The point is, it’s a lot harder and a lot farther to go from Chinese to English than we would typically think. If you go to China and stay at a hotel, they do provide amenities such as shampoo. Here’s one that’s quite humorous.
If you go to China, I guess it’s best to speak very directly. We would say things like, “please be quiet” but it just comes out like this in the translation.
What’s the point of this humor? The point is that even going from one language to another, it is a further distance than we realize to get it right. To go from one culture to another is not easy. If you’ve ever gone outside the U. S. or outside of your own area, you find that immediately everything is very different. The housing is different, the food is different, the language obviously is different and the code of conduct is different. Your expectations are shot to pieces. If we can experience that distance in these small examples, consider what great a distance it is for the almighty God of the universe to become a human being.
Let me read to you what Paul says in Philippians 2, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition and conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” So in other words, this cooperative and united spirit comes and grows out of a spirit of humility. He continues in verse 4, “Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interest of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” And from this point on, Paul points to the incarnation as the great connecting point for humility, unity, and power.
Jesus Christ, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God, a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men, and being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death. It’s one thing that we find in the manger: a child who is both all God and all man. It’s another thing that this Savior would grow up and live a perfect life and then submit or humble himself again to death. And it’s even more stunning to realize that he submitted to this particular cruel form of death on the cross, which is recognized by most historians as one of the most cruel forms of torture and death that mankind has ever invented.
The reason this is counted as being so cruel is because you’re nailed to that cross and the only way that you can breathe is to pull yourself up on those nails to get air. And then you sink down again and you can’t breathe and you pull yourself up again. And so it’s a long and agonizing death. The only way to speed it up is if they break your legs which would kill you. It’s a horrible death.
Paul’s point is the humility of Christ that he would come into the world, live perfectly and then die on the cross. Christ became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross, therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name. So at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. My hope for myself and my family and for you and your family is that the centrality and the supremacy of Jesus Christ would take a grip on us in the coming year so that our faith would grow, our humility would grow and our ability to join with others in great commission would grow. I pray we would always have a sense of joy because we have such a Savior as this, who has humbled himself to the cross and is exalted above all things.
Pictorially, I’ve struggled with this as well. Here’s a picture of the great earth that God, specifically Jesus, created. And then in this next picture we have our own planet and stars and solar system laid out there to show kind of how big it is and how relative all of these planets are. Jesus is the creator of all of this. And then in this next picture we have our own Milky Way, which is our own particular solar system, as a tiny little dot within this larger space. And then this last picture just shows one portion of the sky with thousands of different galaxies in it. Our slice of the vast universe is approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground. This is the image of all these different universes: a tiny speck surrounded by countless universes.
The point of all of this is to give you a sense that the Creator of all of this became smaller than the period at the end of a sentence. He became an embryo like us. That is a profound truth that is worth kneeling before and praising. I encourage all of us to be consumed with joy in this remarkable truth and out of it to be driven to do great things together.