The wide open landscape stretched for miles—lit only by the few stars dotting the night sky. On the horizon, the silhouette of two people and a donkey provided a backdrop against the darkness. Silence echoed against silence until the whispers of bleating sheep added their chorus—asure indication a shepherd was close by.
Before the break of day, silence was shattered by the cries of a newborn. The sound seemed to emanate from the rough-hewn timbers of a stable. Drawing closer, a donkey stomped its feet impatiently in the corner and a man and woman sat shoulder to shoulder admiring the baby the woman cradled in her arms.
Behold, the King of the Jews! The Messiah promised to save the world. He has arrived!
While the world waited in wonder and hope, another man demanded three wise men search for the child. King Herod proudly claimed the title, King of the Jews. The thought of a babe somewhere in Bethlehem claiming the same title put a dent in his ego. This humble birth marked a time of intense conflict between man’s pride and the humility of our Savior.
Max Lucado, in his book, ‘Because of Bethlehem’, shares the story of how he watched a group of kids playing King of the Mountain. I remember doing the same with my brothers on a mound of dirt piled up in a construction zone for new houses. The object of the game is to be the last one standing at the top of the mountain or in our case the mound of dirt.
But as with any game, there are sacrifices made in order to reach the top and proclaim yourself the winner. King Herod wanted nothing more than to find this newborn Messiah because in his mind there was only one King of the Jews—himself. Herod couldn’t see beyond his own power and authority. Pride blocked his view of the grace and love that entered the world that night in the form of a baby. Instead, his haughty view of himself led him to become one of the most destructive kings of all time.
Max Lucado puts the game of King of the Mountain into perspective with these words:
“King of the Mountain is not just a kid’s game. Versions are played in every dormitory, classroom, boardroom, and bedroom. And since mountaintop real estate is limited, people get shoved around. Mark it down: if you want to be king, someone is going to suffer. Pride comes at a high price.”
What is pride blocking from your view? What is the posture of your heart when pride enters in? Will you allow yourself to put aside your pride in order to gain the gift of redemption that Jesus brought?
King Herod continued to view the world through the lens of pride. When he met the three wise men and found out they were traveling to see Jesus, Herod’s only agenda was to find the child and kill him—but he cunningly delegated the task of searching for Jesus to the wise men.
Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!” Matthew 2:8 (NLT)
King Herod’s words to the wise men sound innocent, but his real motive was murder.
When I choose pride over humility, I lose sight of Jesus. Herod rejected Jesus at the cost of his salvation because he could not take his eyes off of himself. Jesus came in humility as an example of how we should live. When Christ entered the world, His only agenda was to fulfill His Father’s plan—and to show us how to love by His perfect, sacrificial example.
Humility looks like caring for others more than I care about myself. It is looking beyond myself and recognizing the beauty around me. Humility keeps the spotlight on Jesus because when I shine it on myself it reflects the flaws and messiness that Jesus has already redeemed through His death on the cross.
Henri Nouwen, in his book, ‘Jesus: A Gospel’, describes Jesus’ humility like this:
“God who is the most different one, distinct one, the most “other” became the most hidden one, the one who is most the same. The experience of being the same, of being one with others, of being truly part of humanity, is a profoundly joyful and freeing experience. Everything that Jesus says and does during his public life needs to be heard and seen as coming from the one whose life is first and foremost a life hidden among us. Jesus’ death then becomes the full living out of this hiddenness.”
Jesus lived, preached, healed and walked among the people. But His life remained very much hidden as He lived close to the ground of humanity. Over and over, we read how Jesus performed miracles but then asked that His name not be mentioned. Other times, He would go off by Himself to spend time alone with His Father. Jesus displayed this intimacy and solitude over and over.
A Beautiful Example
The way He lived His life is a beautiful example for us to follow as we live our own lives.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Phil. 2:3-4 (NIV)
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs 11:2 (NIV)
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Col. 3:12 (NIV)
Yet our focus turns back to ourselves time and time again due to pride. Our sense of pride blinds us to the joy Jesus sets in front of us. Our hearts beat to our own rhythm and in the process, we lose step with the dance God created just for us.
I can list ‘what ifs’ for my own life, but ultimately I learn time and again, that Jesus created me in His image. With that knowledge comes the choice to walk out my life in humility and love or to keep the blinders on.
Let’s lean into what Jesus has to offer by keeping our eyes focused on Him. Let’s learn how to walk in freedom by leaving pride behind. May we wear a cloak of humility as we bow low so Jesus can be glorified. And as Max Lucado says, “the path marked Humility will take you to the manger of the Messiah”. I pray we all choose Jesus and end up at the manger.
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