The soul's own Christmas
She laid him in a manger (Luke 2:7)
The murky stable, the crude manger, the shadowy animals – what a setting for the Holy Babe, for the Lord God!
That scene of undisguised simplicity is God’s personal object lesson for humankind, impressing the seal of his divine approval on the virtue of true humility. “…unless you change and become like children”, he was to say 30 years later, “you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (NRSV, Matthew 18:3,4).
And in the stable of Bethlehem he gave his own unique proof and example of that truth, for there he manifestly humbled himself and became a child; and who can be greater in the Kingdom of Heaven than the King of Heaven himself?
So St Paul reminds us that though Christ was in the form of God , he took upon him the form of a slave and was born in the likeness of human beings; and being found in human form he humbled himself (Philippians 2:6-8).
He exchanged the splendour and the glory of Heaven for the darkness and grime of earth, and in Bethlehem he for whom nothing could be too good, acted as if anything was good enough. And why? Because there was not an atom of self-love in him. His heart was filled instead with love for his Father and with love for us. And it is that humble love, held out to us with such innocent and winning persuasiveness, which claims and captures our love in return.