In part two of this Advent series we looked at the sweet baby Jesus. The truly human characteristics of his life and ministry on earth are remarkable and confounding. The word, “amazement,” would only slightly capture what the doctrine of the Incarnation represents. The Christian faith is subsumed in this mystery.
My goal in the previous article was to look at the human side of Jesus. However, there is another side, equally present and infinitely more difficult to comprehend. The apostle Paul records an early hymn of the church describing what Jesus “did” in order to come and take on flesh. I placed the word “did” in quotation marks because I have no better way of explaining what happened. Paul reminds the Philippians of Jesus humility and journey toward earth in the second chapter of the letter.
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.
From the very beginning the church has sought to understand what it meant for God to enter into the human narrative and secure the redemption of the entire race.The phrase that captures my mind and speaks directly to this mystery in these verses is found in verse 7. What does it mean that Jesus “emptied himself?” The very thought ties the mind in theological, intellectual and philosophical knots. I want to state right from the start, I am not claiming to have the definitive answer to this question. I do, however, have strong reasons for believing what I am going to offer.