With Hanukkah and Christmas just around the corner, many find themselves caught up in the question of clothing.
Have you pulled that gaudy Christmas sweater out of the back of your closet yet? Or maybe you are trying to figure out what kind of clothing you might buy as gifts for loved ones. Perhaps you are wondering if you’re about to receive another round of socks, neckties or flannel shirts – and if so, where you will put them. Others may be fretting over what kind of fashion statement to make while attending various office parties or other events of the season.
But for just a minute I want to reflect on a very different kind of clothing, the kind Messiah Jesus wore when He chose to be born a human being. Jesus, “who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself…” (Philippians 2:6-8)
The incarnation of Jesus made for a very unusual fashion statement on the world’s runway. Jesus was “in the form of God,” array so beautiful and breathtaking it is beyond our ability to imagine or describe. No one has seen God, but the Bible tells us that He alone dwells in “unapproachable light” (see 1 Timothy 6:16). The Bible also speaks of His magnificence in terms of the beauty of sapphires, the majesty of rainbows, of fire and sparkling brilliance. And still, these words and images give us the tiniest glimpse, a mere hint of His glorious raiment. And Jesus laid all that aside in order to don the flesh of a human being, a baby boy to be born in the dead of night in a cold, dark cave reserved for animals.
A newborn has no wardrobe; the incarnation brings Jesus into the world clothed only in the bit of blood that is present at any birth. The King of the Universe set aside majesty and beauty and power to come into this world completely naked. He had to be dressed by others. In the decision to empty Himself, Yeshua chose to clothe Himself with humility. This is to be the pattern and fabric for our wardrobe as well. We are told in Philippians 2:5 to “let this mind be in you” and 1 Peter 5:5 urges us to “be clothed with humility.” Will we make that choice? What are we wearing this Christmas?
I think most of us struggle to clothe ourselves in humility. When we fail to do so, we display a certain element of spiritual immodesty. Are we embarrassed? The humility of Jesus is not our natural attire and the holiday season can become a time when that wardrobe is even less in evidence. It’s so easy to lose patience in traffic, in airports, in line at the store or with family members during the holidays. How will we choose to be different this year?
Let’s remember that when He was on the earth, Jesus demonstrated humility by girding Himself with a towel and washing the disciples’ feet. That towel was the clothing of His servitude. I well remember Dr. Vernon Grounds – who served for many years on the Jews for Jesus board of directors – teaching us about becoming members of “the order of the towel.” In obedience to Jesus, we are to take up that metaphoric towel that symbolizes the humility of serving one another.
The choice to clothe ourselves in humility carries with it profound consequences along with incredible potential for God to work in and through us. “Let this mind (also translated “attitude”) be in you.” God gives us the right to choose, but reserves for Himself the power to enable. We cannot be clothed with humility apart from His grace. That is why it is so important to remember the meaning of Jesus’ incarnation and what it accomplished for us. Those who trust in Him have been adorned with a truly wonderful wardrobe: “For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness….” (Isaiah 61:10)
Jesus’ humility became the instrument of our salvation. We can be clothed in salvation only because we have been wrapped in the robes of His righteousness. Our standing before God is not based upon our own vast intelligence or spiritual perceptivity, but on His sovereign grace. Which is why we should wrap ourselves in humility, as He did.
Jesus not only saved us, but He served us as an example of how we might serve one another in the same humility. And not only are we to serve one another, but we are to serve the lost; because Jesus saved us we have a message of salvation to proclaim to others.
There’s so much that comes to us through the grace of humility, worn as a reflection of our Savior. Andrew Murray wrote, “And so Jesus came to bring humility back to earth to make us partakers of it and by it to save us. In heaven he humbled himself to become man. The humility we see in him possessed him in heaven, he brought it from there. Jesus Christ took the place and fulfilled the destiny of man as a creature by his life of perfect humility. His humility is our salvation, his salvation is our humility.” (Humility by Andrew Murray, Kindle edition.)
So let us actively choose to wear garments of salvation and servitude brought to us by our Lord Jesus this season – that our spiritual wardrobe might reflect and express our loyalty to the Savior, the one whose humble birth we celebrate.