A common theme in Christmas movies is this idea of restoring faith in humanity. Especially true in “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” Bad Grinch lost faith in humanity. And just when he thinks he is going to cause them all despair, because he has stolen all their toys and ruined all their feast, what happens? He hears them singing. His faith in humanity is restored! His heart grows three sizes and he rushes back into town and celebrates. Often the restoration of faith in humanity is brought about by something called the Christmas spirit - and often there is a sad recognition that this spirit of goodwill comes but once a year, accompanied by a resolute vow that this year will be different: this year we’ll keep the Christmas spirit throughout the year.
Christ came not to restore our faith in humanity, but to do something far more profound and far more powerful, and that will last beyond a Christmas season - he came to restore humanity itself. Read Philippians 2:5-13:
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Phil. 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Christians Are Called to Live Like Christ Here is a command of Scripture: “have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” However, we've already established that this is natural to us. How can we do this if we remain in our old ways? We can’t do it. This is what we spoke about a month or so ago when we introduced the issue of our human nature. The Bible declares that every aspect of our human experience is touched by and tainted by sin (total depravity), and thus we are unable to think God's thoughts after Him, unable to please Him (total inability). An important passage underscoring how sin has affected our ability to think God's thoughts after Him is 1 Corinthians 2:14-16:
“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”
The true human experience is found in Christ, and cannot be known by the unbeliever. We must be born again. "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" was correct in that we need an internal change of heart, but that change of heart does not come about by some sentimental Christmas Spirit, but by the Holy Spirit Himself, changing our hearts and renewing our minds, so that we have the mind of Christ.
Christ Confidently Set Aside His Rights and Entitlements
Philippians 2:6 “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,” - It’s important to understand what’s being said here, because we tend to use the word form differently then how Paul used the word morphe. We generally tend to think of the word form as being something external, like the shape a thing takes. Since its nearly Christmas, think of a toy, a transformer - here it is in the form of a car, now here it is in the form of a robot. That’s how we use the word form, but that’s not how the Bible uses the term. In the Bible, the term morphe points to the essential character or nature of what a thing is. We use this word in English when we say that something morphs into something new, it’s not just external change, its a complete transformation of its nature. And so the NIV translate this most helpfully for us when it says in English, “Who, being in very nature, God.”
This helps to explain the second statement: “he did not count equality with God something to be grasped.” Only the desperate cling on to what they are afraid to lose. This is why you see humanity so often clinging to power and authority, because we are so afraid that we will lose our positions of power or authority. It’s why we cling to our rights and our privilege, because we’re worried that we will lose our rights and our privileges. Yet Christ had no crisis of confidence. He knew his nature could never be nullified. And so he did not have to cling to it. It was who He is. Think about this - are you worried that one day you’ll wake up and no longer be human? Do you go to bed at night clinging to your humanity because you’re afraid you’ll wake up as a snail? No, of course not, that’s absurd. And so Christ, being in the form - the very nature - of God, did not worry that he would lose his goodness and thus cling on to it, but he did what only those who are confident in their nature can do: “but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,” - the word is kenosis, which means “to pour out everything, until it’s all gone.” He poured out Himself. He emptied Himself. Now this word has caused a bit of confusion in us, what does it mean to for God to give himself up? Now it doesn’t mean that his divine nature was eradicated. God can no more eradicate his God-ness any more that you can decide one day that you’re a cat. But if you really wanted to be a cat, I suppose you could give up all the rights and privileges of your humanity to live as a cat. You could strip yourself down naked, crawl around on the floor, eat from bowls and trays. Give up your drivers licence and drop out of school.You could refuse to talk and only communicate in mews and purrs. But for all this your nature would remain the same, you would not cease to by human, even setting all our your human experience aside. So it is with Christ, he emptied himself of all his divine experience, being confident that it was not something to grasp onto, for he knew he could never lose it. Yet he did so much more than pretend to be a cat:
Christ’s took on our human nature to restore humanity
Jesus’ incarnation was no mere shadow, or pretend game. He took on the form - there’s that word again, the morphe - of a servant. So he is the morphe of God, and now he takes on the morphe of a student. He fully assumed all that we are, adding all that we are as humans onto all that He already was as God. This is what the theologians call the hypostatic union: hypostasis is the greek word meaning substance (remember Hebrews 11?) so the hypostatic union is the union of substances of Christ, who is fully God and fully man.
Now this seems impossible to us, because we can only conceive of something giving up its nature to become something new, as a caterpillar gives up its nature as it transforms into the butterfly. Yet Christ did not give up his divine nature to become human, he remained divine while taking on the form of a servant. how are we to understand it, well first I would say, we’re not(!), but second I would say that the only hint we are given in scripture is that in creating humankind in the image and likeness of God, God created us incarnatable. That’s that hint found in this passage when it says, “being born in the likeness of man”; man, who as we know was himself created in the image and likeness of God. And so God from the beginning prepared human nature so that He could one day take in up unto Himself in the person of Christ. This is the mystery of Christmas, God with us as one of us.
In taking on our human nature, Christ also took on to himself all the external trappings of the human experience. This is the meaning of the word “form” in verse 8 - its a different Greek word, schema, from which we get out English word scheme, or schematic. Christ assumed for himself our nature, and in doing so experienced every aspect of our humanity to its fullest.
He didn’t drop like some visitor from outer space. He was born of a Jewish mother. He lived in a little village of Nazareth. He ate the way they ate. He talked the language they talked. He transported Himself the way they did. He wore the clothes they wore, took care of Himself the way they took care of themselves. He ate what they ate. He drank what they drank. In other words, He took on the scheme of their life, the customs of their culture. So by personal experience, He adapted to the outer manifestation of the time in which He lived. He was man at the deepest part of His nature. And He adapted to man in that climate, and that culture, and that time, and experienced all of their experiences, fully God, fully man, the mystery of the incarnation, and sinless all the while.
Don’t think of Jesus as less than fully human. He was fully human. Did people come into this world through the natural process of birth, through the womb of a mother? So did He. Had others been wrapped in swaddling clothes? So was He. Had others grown up? So did He. Did others have brothers and sisters? He did. Did others learn a trade and work? So did He. Were other men at times hungry, and thirsty, and weary, and asleep? So was He. Were others grieved and angry? So was He. Did others weep? So did He. Did others rejoice? So did He. Were others destined to die? So did He. Did others suffer pain? So did He. Were others loved and hated? So was He. He was a man, in the form and the fashion.
Thus Christ, who existed in the very nature of God so much that it was no threat to him that he might lose it, took on our nature and all of our human experience. Why? because he loved us. As church Father Ireneus wrote in his treatise “On the Incarnation”: He has been manifested in a human body for this reason only, out of the love and goodness of His Father, for the salvation of us men.” In his incarnation, Christ took on our very nature, uniting himself with our humanity.
And Christ went further, for in order to restore humanity (not our faith in humanity, but to restore humanity) he must uphold God’s word to humanity - namely that as a result of humanity’s sin, humanity must die: in the day you eat of it, you shall surely die. And so Jesus, being God must uphold God’s word against humanity, but Jesus, being human is able to stand in our place. And so he humbled himself, not only to take on our nature, but also to take on our death (he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.) Where Adam’s death was a result of his disobedience and brought death, Christ’s death was a death of obedience and brought life to all who get behind him, who stand under him, and who are born again by his Spirit.
This is how Christ restores humanity. He comes as true human, uncorrupted. We’ve only experienced corrupt humanity, depraved humanity, condemned humanity. In order to see what true, unblemished humanity is, we have to see Christ, and observe Christ, and know Christ. Now we might say - what hope do we have to live like Jesus. Yes he was fully man, I understand that. But he was also fully God. therefore he was not really like us, for his divine nature never truly left him. In order for us to experience his life, we’d also have to partake of his divine nature. This is why 2nd Peter 1:3-4 is so crucial
2Pet. 1:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
There is in a sense a hypostatic union going on in us, our human nature now accompanied by the Holy Spirit, Christ in you the hope of glory, so that we now might desire and do good. Or to stay in the same chapter of Philippians, Phil. 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
And this brings us back to the first point: Christians Are Called to Live Like Christ, and for Christ lives within them.
That’s Christmas - its not about the spirit of the season that make us better than we are for a little while until it wears off, its not about restoring faith in humanity. It’s about Christ’s great confidence in his Godness that He could take unto himself our humanity, and truly restore us.