Greatness from Humility

The birth of Jesus, the God and creator of this world, is the single greatest event to ever happen to mankind, yet it transpired in relative obscurity and to little fanfare. Jesus’ birth in some ways mirrored his death for, as with his death, he was also despised and rejected by his people at birth.

The year was approximately 2, B.C. A very pregnant young Mary and her husband Joseph entered Bethlehem to register for the census decree issued by Caesar Augustus. Mary and Joseph would not have been welcomed by either of their families upon their arrival into Bethlehem. Mary was pregnant and that would have meant one of two things: either she had become pregnant with Joseph’s baby during their betrothal or she had been unfaithful to Joseph and would have been viewed as an adulteress. Joseph’s claim that she was indeed a virgin and was pregnant with the Messiah would have caused those closest to him to think him insane! Family and friends would have rejected them and not welcomed them in to their homes for fellowship and a place to stay and sleep.

As the hour drew near for Mary to give birth, a desperate Joseph sought a place for Mary to deliver her son. I imagine he knocked on doors begging for mercy for his wife who was in labor. Finally, he arrived at the inn. He begged for a room so that Mary could deliver her child. The innkeeper couldn’t allow them in but in an act of mercy, brought them out back to a stable where Mary, on a bed of straw, gave birth to our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.

Angels announced his birth to shepherds who were watching over their flocks nearby and they came and worshipped the baby Jesus. Wise men from Persia saw an astronomical phenomena and gathered their things to travel 1,000 miles to Bethlehem, a journey that would have taken about four months, to see the child. Yet the Bible tells of no one else coming to see the Messiah.

I can’t imagine a more humble beginning than the one Jesus was given. He was rejected by family, friends, and the Jewish people. This is exactly what God wanted, for Jesus didn’t just teach us how to live with his words; he also taught us by the way he lived. His humility was on display every day when, instead of man’s praise and accolades, he sought to make much out of his heavenly Father. He lived out the implications of his words, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11 ESV). Though he should have had feasts held in his honor by the Jewish leaders, he was happy to dine with tax collectors and prostitutes. Though he should have been teaching in the synagogue, in a place of prestige, he was delighted to teach sitting on the side of a mountain. Our Lord was content being despised and rejected as long as God the Father was exalted. He never set out to make much of himself, but to make much of God!

Oh, how our churches, families, workplaces and neighborhoods could be transformed if we were able to live as Jesus did! Concerned, not for our own fame or status, but for the fame and status of God the Father. As advent nears, arrives, and moves toward Easter, I encourage all of us to look to the birth, life, and crucifixion of Jesus. Let us see how he lived out the implications of what he taught, and realize that we too can turn the focus from making much of ourselves to making much of the Father, being willing to live despised and rejected by our fellow man, knowing we are wholly accepted by the Father and his Son!