Christmas Themes from PhilippiansPhilippians 1:27-- 2: 11; 3:10
When someone says the word "Christmas," what comes to your mind? Perhaps your thoughts include family, eating, visiting and, of course, the presents! Maybe your mind goes to the stress of the holidays in trying to find that perfect gift for a picky relative or a cherished loved one, or, perhaps, the dreaded family visits when you know you will be picked apart by relatives with questions such as "What are you doing, still going to that church? When are you going to get a real job? Why are you not married yet? Why are your kids wearing that? and so forth.
Perhaps you are very relieved right now that Christmas is a mere memory, and you have almost 12 months before you have to worry about it again. However, have you considered that there is a Christmas spirit? Not the Christmas spirit as told by Santa stories or children's books, but the Christmas Spirit from the Word of God?
"…stand fast in one spirit with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel," (Phil. 1:27)
The Christmas Spirit is the character of Christ living out in us all year long. The point of the Christian life is not self-realization, but in knowing Jesus Christ, not allowing anything to take His place in our thinking, our emotions, and the daily experiences of life. The spiritual and mature Christian will never think his circumstances are merely haphazard, neither think of himself as the center of the universe. Rather Christians are to be Christ like in "attitude" and in "form." Whether we do menial activities like raking leaves, or tackle big projects for the church, the mature Christian will see everything as Christ does, even in those times when it seems He has "dumped" on him.
Thus, our daily activities as well as those bad circumstances such as stress, setbacks, failures, and such, are a means of growth and learning and becoming more like Him. We are to see all that there is in life as a journey to further secure the knowledge of Jesus Christ in our lives, even to the point of being recklessly abandoned to Him. (Gal. 2:20-21)
This "attitude" and "form" are key words for Paul (see questions # 9 & 10) and what the book of Philippians is all about--not to mention what life is all about! This is what Christmas is all about. This is why Christ came. Yes, to save you from your sins, but then what? Are you to sit in a pew and complain, to throw pity parties when things do not go your way? Are you to hate the relatives during the holidays? NO! The Holy Spirit is determined for us to realize Jesus Christ in every aspect of our life. If not, He will bring us back to the same scenario repeatedly until we learn the lessons He has for us, until we get it right.
Self-realization is thinking that we are all that leads to the believing. It is in thinking that if we are good, we will go to heaven, or that we are good persons, and we work hard, so we do not need Christ in our lives. It is saying that if He is there, we will keep Him on a "short leash." This is total anti-Biblical thinking. When we have this mindset, no growth will accrue. There will be no maturity, no seizing the maturity of the Christian life, and no partaking in the real meaning of life, in the real meaning of Christmas.
Instead, the focus in life and Christmas is on the eating, the drinking, or the presents, and not upon the washing of the disciples' feet. We forsake each other for ourselves or use others as a means to gain status or whatever it is we desire. The Spirit is there all along, trying to guide us in, like an airport attendant with two flashlights guiding in a jumbo jet. The pilot must keep a careful eye on the person guiding him as well as the controls of the aircraft or else the multi-million dollar plane and the hundreds on board will be in dire jeopardy. We too, must keep watch on the Spirit and His guiding, a teaching that is clearly seen in these verses.
So, we must watch. We must take the controls and steer our life His way, less we crash, resulting in a consequence to all those around us. It may come small, like a small man compared to the monstrous 747 jet. However, the 747 cannot park, nor can the passengers go on their way without the guidance from two very small flashlights. We have to take the initiative of realizing Jesus Christ in every phase of our daily life. If we don't, a counterfeit will invade in the place of Jesus.
When He walked this earth in human form, Christ Himself realized His relationship to the Father even in his normal, day-to-day activities.
"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 13:5)
Jesus knew that He was God, but as a man He "took a towel," the most low and menial task of His day. It would compare today to our washing a toilet. So, if the Creator of the universe was able to be humble and be guided in by the seemingly small voice in a loud and large world, why cannot we?
The aim of the mature, spiritual Christian, who desires to live the true Christian faith, will have this Christ like theme imprinted upon his heart and mind. This theme will permeate every activity and aspect of his life--from preaching a sermon to washing a toilet, from buying groceries to leading a person to the Lord-- "that I may know Him." Do you know Him where you are today? If not, you are failing Him. This may seem harsh and un-Christmas like, but very Biblically true. Let us not be confused in our culture, our desires, our needs and wants, or our ideas of what we think the Christian life is to be like, and let us surrender ourselves to what the Word is really calling us, to maturity and growth in Him!
We are not on this earth to just appreciate ourselves, but to know Jesus and to make Him known. In our Evangelical Christian subculture, the trends in thinking are too often placed solely on the idea that, " Something needs to be fixed and I must be the one to do it." Yes, something must be fixed, work must be done, and we must do it. Nevertheless, we do it, not just for the aspect of work, but because of who we are and what we have been called to do--mature and grow. When everyday Christians are pursuing the Heart of Christ by following His character in "attitude" and "form," then we will see our churches change. Then society will change.
Questions to ponder:
1. When someone says the word, "Christmas," what comes to your mind?
2. Have you considered that there is a Christmas Spirit?
3. If so, what does that mean?
4. Read the selected verses. First, read Philippians 1:27 - 2: 4, then 2:5-11. What do you see as the connection between these two passages?
5. What was Christ's attitude toward others? (Remember, He is God, and deserves full worship and adoration)
6. When life does not go your way, what do you do?
a. Sit in a pew and complain?
b. Throw pity parties?
7. What should you do when things do not go your way?
8. What does "attitude" mean to you?
9. What are the attitudes in these verses? (In the Greek, "attitude" NIV, or "mind" in NKJV, (2:5) means a mental state based on feeling, rather than just thinking. It signifies a concern for others, whereas just thinking keeps the focus upon us. The opposite of this is "pride," which is what Paul was confronting in these verses--Phil. 1:1-4; 2:7.)
10. What does "nature" in NIV or "form" in NKJV mean to you? (Usually we just skip over such words and miss their depth and meaning. The characteristics of "nature" or "form" in the Greek mean an "inward character and goodness that is reflected from a primary source." It does not mean a shape, but rather imitating--that we are to imitate Christ's character! It comes from Plato's Philosophy of Imitation, in which he used the illustration of how a fire reflects a shadow, that life and all that we perceive as real is just a shadow on the wall. So, all that we see and experience in life is a shadow of the true reality that is hidden from us. Thus, Paul is drawing upon Plato's themes in pointing us to the ONE true reality and that is Christ. We only see a mere shadow of Him until we are called home.)
11. How do the terms, "attitude," "form," and "humility" go together?
12. How can you apply these themes into your life, so you may become more Christ-like? Begin with Philippians 3:10, "That I may know Him." Do you know Him where you are today? If so, what can you do to implement the Christ character? If not, what is in the way?
© 2002 R.J. Krejcir Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org