The story of Christ actually does not begin at the birth in Bethlehem. It doesn’t begin with messengers from God being sent to the father of John the Baptist or to Mary. The story of Christ has no beginning. And that’s actually what makes the story so amazing. The eternal, incomparable, preeminent Son of God, the Word, existed from eternity. And yet, this eternal Deity took upon flesh and became a human being.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5, 14)
In the words of the apostle Paul, He “emptied Himself,” or “made himself nothing.”
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! (Phil. 2:5-11)
How could He do this? How could He stoop so low? How could He lower himself so far—to not only be born but to be born in such a humble setting; to become not only human but a servant of humans; to endure not just death but humiliation, pain, crucifixion.
Perhaps John 13 offers a clue. John tells why it was that Jesus, shortly before His death, was willing to do the task of a household slave and wash the dirty feet of the disciples who within hours would betray Him, deny Him, and forsake Him.
3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:3-5)
Jesus knew who He was. And so He sacrificed, and gave, and served. And now He tells us to do the same. We are to “have the same mindset as Christ” (Phil. 2:5); we are called to serve rather than to be served (Matt. 20:20-28); we are to deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily, and follow our Lord (Luke 9:23); we too are to empty ourselves.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:12-17)