This time of year, when our thoughts turn toward the wondrous story of our Savior's birth, a lesser-known incident from Jesus' early childhood comes to mind-one I find especially poignant.
Before Jesus had reached His second birthday, He had already become the target of an assassination plot by King Herod, the ruthless and paranoid ruler of Roman-controlled
I'm always struck by how ironic their flight to
The pharaohs' standard of dying wasn't bad either. They obviously never heard the saying, "You can't take it with you." Concern for their lot in the afterlife was integral to Egyptian religion, and so their custom was to pack their burial chambers with supplies they would need as they traveled to their next life. King Tut's tomb proved they didn't travel lightly.
But expecting to live forever wasn't a pharaoh's only outrageous aspiration. Records indicate Egyptian kings assumed, and were given, supernatural status. The pharaoh was thought to be responsible for bringing the floods that watered Egyptian crops, and so he received credit for providing the nation's food. He was idolized in statue, citizens bowed to his image, and in the ultimate act of pride, every reigning pharaoh claimed to be the manifestation of at least one god. Akhenaton, Egyptian history's infamous heretic, banished the national pantheon and proclaimed himself to be the living incarnation of the sun god Ra-he believed he was Ra in the flesh.
Whether it's the ancient pharaohs demanding the worship of others, or the millions of modern skeptics who reject God, dethrone Him as Creator, and worship themselves, man's inherent pattern has always been to exalt himself. Rebellion against God can take no higher form than self-love-the person who seeks his own interests at the expense of others and places himself at the center of the universe. That is precisely the condition in which you and I wallowed before we were saved, and that is where, ultimately, everyone who doesn't know the Lord remains.
Many men throughout world history have wanted to become gods, but there has been only one God who wanted to become a
Consider for a moment what it meant for our Lord Jesus to come to earth as a man to secure the salvation of mankind. The King of heaven left His throne and took a stable for a nursery. The very Son of God was hunted by a tyrant king and became an infant exile in
Holy and without blemish, young Messiah was assaulted by every temptation Satan could thrust on Him, yet He resisted each one to its fullest force. The King of creation willingly subjected Himself to all of what it means to be human-pain, hunger, thirst, sorrow, physical exhaustion, the full range of human emotions-yet did so without sinning.
In an unfathomable act of selfless, sacrificial love, God left heaven's glory to die in sinners' stead. He offered mercy to a people who deserved only His wrath. He stooped to accomplish that which we not only could not do, but also would not do. In love, the God of the universe stepped from eternity to intervene in human history and save those wholly unable to save themselves.
In a word, the lesson we learn from Christmas is love. Christ's love-love that was manifest in His coming, in His life, and in His death-is a love that sacrificed. In the Advent of Jesus Christ, we see a love that sought, not its own needs, but the needs of others. We see a love that considered, not what it would lose, but what others would gain. We see a love that so emptied self that others would be filled; a love that so humbled self that others would be lifted up.
The Christ of Christmas gave to the very end, ultimately forfeiting His own life, so that sinners would find salvation. That's what happened when God became a Man-and that's what Christmas is all about.