Philippians 2: 1-11
Take a moment to be still and to pray ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ before reading the scriptures. If you are in the company of others, invite someone to read the text aloud.
If you are gathering with your family, invite someone to read this reflection aloud.
Through our Lenten reflections this week I want to risk straying into the mystery of godliness, by lightly dipping our toes into a paradox that has kept poets, painters and preachers up at night, awake for centuries:
Why did God become human?
Through filters that soften and distort selfies, the curation of our identities by becoming a well performing online avatar, the ambient hum of distraction and the inkling to always be optimising ourselves, we are so often running away from what it means to be human. While we are escaping from the skin and bone reality of life, we find Jesus moving in the opposite direction – the fullness of God becoming a man.
In Philippians 2, we read of the fully God Jesus, choosing to make Himself nothing, being found in the appearance of a man and offering Himself obediently to death on a cross. Jesus emptied Himself out by adding to Himself the nature of man. Through the incarnation, the Sustainer of all willingly became dependent upon His Father, His Spirit, His mother, His family, His friends. In becoming like us, Jesus willingly entered into the ways of the same world that He upholds by the very word of His power.
By the way, this was not a phase for Jesus, for He will forever be the God-man. Jesus’ humble embodiment of humanity will last for eternity.
As Jesus tethered His divine and human natures together for all time, He could now take on the form of a sacrificial servant able to live obedient onto death, fulfilling the will of the Father. The Father’s desire, fired up by His love for us, could only be actioned by the execution of the God-man.
It was the only way.
His incarnation paved the way onto Redemption Road.
The truth is God cannot die and man cannot overcome death. Yet to take a lead from John Calvin, as Jesus coupled the weakness of our humanity with the death-wrestling power of the divine, He paved the way for our victory. Or as John Stott put it, “The divinity of Christ, the humanity of Christ and the righteousness of Christ uniquely qualified Him to be man’s redeemer. If He had not been man, He could not have redeemed men. If He had not been a righteous man, He could not have redeemed unrighteous men. And if he had not been God’s Son, He could not have redeemed men for God or made them sons of God.”
I know what you’re thinking.
It’s Monday Stu. Why leave us with a head-scratcher?
Well, at the start of this week, I want you to see once again the lengths that Jesus was willing to go for us to receive His gift of love and life everlasting. In the incarnation we see the great condescension, as Jesus emptied Himself of all that He was owed so that we may become the sons and daughters of God. Doxology is the fitting response to the wonder of the incarnation.
Also, Jesus shows us the shape that our lives are to take. In a culture obsessed with rising through the ranks, our Redeemer takes the opposite path of downward mobility, marked by service and sacrifice. The God-shaped life is not found in building your status, achieving your life goals or getting to live like so and so. The way to be human, newly human, is found in travelling in the direction that Jesus is going, moving towards those He tends to keep company with. In His Kingdom, there is no one or no thing that is beneath you.
As you step into a new week, may you think of yourself the way that Christ thought of Himself:
Humble and willing to serve.
Depending on which time of day you are practicing this office, you can use the morning or evening prayer. All to pray the following words aloud.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
St. Francis of Assisi
If you are gathering with your family, wait a moment and listen for the voice of God. Prayerfully share any words, pictures, encouragements or scriptures with each other by the laying on of hands.
Whether you are by yourself, or in the company of others, take time to pray for others that the Holy Spirit brings to mind, blessing them in His name.
Close your time by singing or saying aloud the Doxology.
“Fight back the dark with doxology. Doxology can detox the day.”
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
Amen and Amen.