The following is a shared Christmas post written by ABTS faculty. The contributors articulate ideas around the Lord’s incarnation, humility and meaningful love. A timely reminder, lest we get swept away with the festivities of the season.
Having the Mindset of Christ
by Elie Haddad
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” – Philippians 2:5-7
Philippians 2:5-11 is one of the most beautiful texts written about Jesus and about the incarnation. One cannot read it without falling in love with Jesus all over again. It shows His ultimate sacrifice, His humility, and His self-denial. He is the pre-existent God, with all His glory. Yet out of His own free will, he gave up all that to take the form of a slave, even to the extent of death on a cross. All of this because He loves us so. How can you not fall in love with Him?
However, one cannot read this text without putting it into its context. Suddenly, the most beautiful text becomes the most difficult and challenging text. Paul presents the sacrifice of Jesus as a model for us to follow. We are to think like Him. Paul is using this Jesus paradigm to call us to a radical change of our mindset. This is difficult, is it not? We are called to deny ourselves while we are so used to working things to our own favor. We are called to love others and sacrifice for them while we are so used to working toward advancing our own agenda. Can you imagine the kind of Christian community we could have if we all had this kind of attitude?
It would be wonderful, this Christmas season, if we can take some of the beauty that we find in Jesus, learn from it, and start to imitate it and live it out among those around us.
The Gift that Keeps on Giving
by Bassem Melki
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15
When I think of getting someone a present, I always think of what they want and rarely of what they need. I am not sure what kind of presents each one of you is expecting during this season. If we expect a gift from God, what would it look like and how would it impact us? How will we receive it? What were the people of God two-thousand-plus years ago waiting for and expecting from God?
Isaiah prays, “Oh, that You would tear open the heavens and come down, that the mountains would quake at Your presence… to make Your name known to Your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Your presence!” (Is 64:1-2)
What did they get? They got a Baby. Not what they expected, I would guess.
Some gifts represent the giver, and some gifts represent the receiver. I believe God’s gift represents both. The Father’s gift to humankind represents His unconditional and powerful love towards us, and humanity’s need for forgiveness, mercy, justice, grace, and ultimately salvation, in Jesus.
God the Father thought of our need more than of what we want or desire. He thought of what can enrich our lives eternally, redeem our past and forgive our sins, free us from bondages, and restore our souls, families, and communities. For these reasons and more Paul says, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor 9:15)
I pray that this indescribable gift is received by you today. And may we be givers of this gift to many this season, and always.
The Proactive Act of Incarnation
by Walid Zailaa
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Colossians 2:9
I’ve been thinking lately not only about God’s act of extreme love through the work of Jesus, but also about the driving force behind the whole phenomenon of incarnation. Did God respond to the fact that we sinned by sending Jesus to restore the relationship and bring us back to the house of the heavenly Father? Or, was the whole possibility of redemption present in God’s mind when He created us with the possibility of falling away as a result of free will? In other words, is God a responsive God who acts after the incident in response to it? Or is He a proactive God?
It was not an accident that Jesus was incarnated and the price was paid: God paid it knowingly; it was a plan. According to Peter, a plan that is known before the creation: “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you” (1 Pet 1:20). A hidden plan that was revealed now.
In a hopeless world, a hopeless Middle East, a hopeless Lebanon, in a world of pain and suffering, where, according to the book of Judges, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes,” do we have any hope left? In such dire situations, the proactive act of incarnation has become more meaningful. When I think of God as one who acts proactively, my whole understanding of divine love dwelling in Jesus grows deeper.
During this time of the year, our place in God’s plan should strengthen us in the face of all the hardships and crises we are experiencing.
by Grace Al-Zoughbi
“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” Micah 5:2
In a humble and unexpected place, Jesus made Himself known to humanity. He dwelt in our midst like John the Evangelist articulates in His opening chapter (John 1:1). Today, as I walk by the Church of the Nativity, historically known as the place where Jesus was born, unshaken by the two millennia that have passed since Christ’s birth, His love to me is the same, manifested afresh this Christmas. I see Him in the eyes of the poor; he comes to us through the cries of the marginalized. He speaks to us through the mouths of the babes. With the contemporary tunes of “Fall on your knees”, I cannot help but bow down in deep adoration as I think of the momentous night when Christ was born in my own “too little” town. From the beginning His desire has been to strip bare injustice, to devour oppression, to beat death, and to make us new creations in Him, granting us eternal life through Him. The reality on the ground is different. For pain, agony and suffering are still persistent. Christmas is not magical in this sense. However, out of humble beginnings come great things. Christ has promised redemption to humanity and to creation. This starts with His birth and reaches its climax in the crucifixion and resurrection “whose coming forth is from…ancient days” (Micah 5:2). May we experience a new miracle in our life this season as we stand in awe of the humility but also the power of Emmanuel, our Savior. May we reflect on the humility of our Savior but also the significance of his eternality; the smallness of humanity, but the depth of the eternal Word incarnated in us. Christmas is not magical; it is miraculous!