Can you recall your earliest memory? Perhaps you were 2 or 3, it varies between individuals. One thing is certain you will not remember anything before you were born, and 100% certain not before you were conceived. That is because you and I are human and our lives had a normal beginning.
The Christmas beginning is far from normal. The history of the Son of Man is not like yours. He tells us, “before Abraham was, I Am”. Yes, he was a real baby boy born at Bethlehem, but unlike you he existed before his birth or conception.
It’s a mystery for sure but in order for the Son of God to become the Son of Mary he had to empty himself, not of everything, but enough for him to arrive at Bethlehem without destroying the world with his power.
I can’t understand that, nor can you, but Christmas is a story of wonder, mystery and miracle, thank God. So this season may I let you see four aspects under the heading Christmas Mindset?
I’m taking my words from a letter that Saul of Tarsus (St. Paul) wrote to a group of Christians in a town called Philippi (named after the father of Alexander the Great).
Paul tells the Christians to adopt the same mindset as Jesus, who chose not to hold on to his past (and rightful) status but to empty himself. That’s how Christmas is possible. God the Son chose to empty himself, become a baby and rescue us from ourselves.
Have you heard it said, “he’s full of himself” or “she’s full of herself”? It is that very aspect of us that he came to heal. If you’re full of yourself you become deaf and blind, so consumed with your own interest that there is no room at the inn of your life.
Look around you. Your world will contain many people who could be described as full of themselves. Look further and you will see companies, organizations, institutions, coworkers and team members consumed with self-interest. Take it nationally and you find the polemic that shouts, me first, my country first.
When filled with that type of spirit it drives out compassion, care, love, altruism and kindness. It generates a cold-hearted, bitter, fearful and aggressive mindset which won’t see the pain of others.
Not so, the Son of Man. He arrives via an emptying and shows a life empty of self-absorption. What does that look like?
May I suggest a couple of characteristics of the emptying mindset which the Son of Man shows you and Paul invites us to adopt.
First, the emptying mindset is hallmarked by seeing and noticing. The Son of Man saw, in great detail, the realities of those around him. He saw people’s struggles, their dreams, their fears, their needs. He also saw their strengths, joys and potential.
Second, he listened. Time and time again the stories record him listening to a question, a need, a heart.
Considering his endless knowledge and wisdom you can see how he had to choose to empty himself in order to listen, absorb and process the conversations around him.
So this Christmas may I suggest that you pray that the spirit of Christ teach you about emptying? An emptying that empowers you to really see yourself accurately, but also see others, not as threats, means to an end or just your audience, but as people with all their strengths and weaknesses. How refreshing it is when you are noticed. How refreshing it is for others when you learn to notice them.
Ask the God who listens to empty your head of your words and make space to listen to the words of others. Isn’t it refreshing to be heard? It will certainly refresh others if you listen.
If you start this journey of emptying it will spur you to act, what kind of actions? That will be the subject of the second look at the Christmas mindset.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
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