By LESLIE LUDY
hen I was nine years old, I played Gabriel in the Christmas musical at my church called “Angels Aware”. (I even got to blow a trumpet at the finale of the play, which was very exciting!) The story was about a group of angels in Heaven who had just heard the news that God was sending His only Son to earth to rescue the world. The angels began discussing all the many ways that Christ should make His appearance on earth. They felt He should go to earth as a great king or powerful leader. When the angels found out He would become the humble, helpless baby of a poor carpenter and his wife, and that He would be born in a stable and visited by lowly shepherds, they were astonished. The musical described the amazing humility and love that Christ demonstrated when He chose to forsake the highest place and take the lowest one – all on our behalf.
The simple message of that Christmas play was powerful, and I still remember what I learned from that story – even decades later.
One of the most powerful and astounding things to me about the Christmas story is the incredible act of humility demonstrated by the King of heaven. Not only the humility He demonstrated in taking on the form of a baby and being born in a stable, but the humility that He displayed all throughout His earthly ministry.
Jesus never fought for position or fame. Rather, He continually baffled His followers by laying down His right to be lauded and honored. The story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet is an amazing illustration of this attitude:
“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself ” (Jn. 13:3-4).
Jesus knew exactly who He was — the King over Heaven and earth, with all things under His feet. If anyone had a right to take the highest place, it was Jesus. Yet He willingly humbled Himself and took the lowest position, one of a servant who washed the dirt and mire from the disciples’ feet.
Following this astonishing act, He said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (Jn. 13:14-15). Jesus’ life was a picture of this kind of humility, of willingly choosing the lowest place rather than the highest one.
In addition to being a wonderful reminder of God’s amazing gift to us, the Christmas story also points to the kind of self-surrender and humility we are called to walk in as Christ’s followers. If the Lord of Heaven and earth laid down His rights to be noticed, applauded and esteemed, and took on the form of a servant, are we not willing to walk the same path? This culture constantly pushes us to fight for our rights, demand respect, and struggle to be recognized. But Christ’s example – starting from the very first moments of His birth – tells us the opposite.
Instead of striving to be noticed and appreciated, we are to take an entirely different posture into every area of our lives, one of humility and self-denial. Whether we are recognized and applauded or disregarded and overlooked, it should make no difference to us. When we truly walk in the footsteps of the Lamb, we will care only about knowing Him and making Him known.
Paul reminds us, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. . . . Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God . . . made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. . . (Phil. 2:3-8).
Imagine the freedom of being unconcerned whether people appreciated your unique talents, personality, or acts of service. Imagine if your only concern was making Jesus known, even if no one ever remembered your name. What would happen if we began to put aside our self-seeking ambitions and joyfully take the lowest place, just as Jesus did?
This Christmas, as an act of gratitude to the One who gave everything for you, I encourage you to chose the same humility that He did. Instead of fighting for your own rights and recognition, chose the lowest place – the place of a humble servant – to those God has placed in your life. Though the path of humility is not applauded by the world, there is no greater joy than to follow in His steps.