For days I had been looking at this picture my six year old granddaughter had drawn before Christmas on a small white board. I remembered her patting me on the side and trying to say something about the stars while her mother and I chatted with each other. I guess you could say I only caught bits and pieces of her thoughts that day. When I asked her later what it was she had relayed to me, she had forgotten and the moment seemed lost. All through Christmas, I found myself smiling back at the smiling stars and chuckling over the uncomfortable position of baby Jesus, head hanging over the edge of the manger bed.
It wasn't until after Christmas, God began to speak to me about the picture. My idea to write something light and funny about her childlike view of the Christ child was not to be. As I found myself reading in the book of Philippians, it popped into my head. “And Jesus had no place to rest his head.” I wasn't sure where to find this reference so I continued to read in chapter two.
“Fill up and complete my joy by living in harmony and being of the same mind and one in purpose, having the same love, being in full accord and of one harmonious mind and intention.
Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife, selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit or empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves]. (Philippians 2:2-3)
I paused before reading the rest of the scripture. I was familiar with the words coming next. However, I found myself reading and re-reading the passage as the picture my little one had drawn flickered on and off at the back of my mind.
Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that he became like men and became a human being.”( Philippians 2:5-7)
Suddenly, the humor I'd enjoyed before Christmas turned to a real life application of the Christmas story for me personally. Bedtime can be somewhat of a ritual for me as I position my pillows and straighten all the wrinkles in my sheets, comforter and quilt before I can settle into the position for sleep. I have to admit that much of my life and I believe that of our culture has come to revolve around comfort and ease. The idea of stripping ourselves of all our privileges and those things we feel we have “a right to” is not something we relish. While I have certainly heard messages about the real environment the Christ child was born into, in hind sight I realized I may not have given this as much thought this Christmas. Coming through a very difficult season prior to the holidays with my father's cancer, I was ready for a restful time with my family.
My heart was certainly thankful for the healing my dad had experienced allowing us all the opportunity to be together for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. The past several months there were days when my faith seemed to be as faltering and weak at moments as the toothpick-like legs of the manger bed my granddaughter had pictured in her drawing. Rest had been an illusive thing and there had been many sleepless nights as I lay my head on the pillow.
“Work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust), with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ).
[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight.” (Philippians 2:12-13)
It was evident to me that we would not have made it through the months of August to December had God not been there to carry us through as He energized and created both the power and physical strength to accomplish His will as we fought the temptation to give up and give in to our physical weakness and desire for comfort. My sister and I both know individuals who have served parents, children or spouses for longer periods of time and continue to serve their loved ones when it seems their strength would be depleted. I would be less than honest if I were not to share my struggle with the grumbling, complaining, questioning and doubting mentioned in verse fifteen. We live in a culture that promotes not only self sufficiency but self preservation. My heart is as susceptible to this message as the next person. I must be watchful against this temptation and shrink from what would discredit the Son of Man who surrendered to birth as a mere man in a lowly manger.
We often pack up the Christmas story with the Nativity, tree and ornaments as if the whole story of "God became man" was over. But what was I to do with this simple child's drawing of seven smiling stars looking down on the baby Jesus, with no crib nor place for his head? As I finished chapter two of Philippians, I read these words....
“Do all things without grumbling and faultfinding and complaining against [against God] and questioning and doubting [among yourselves]. That you may show yourselves blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the dark world.” (Philippians 2:14-15)
I couldn't bring myself to erase the precious picture from the white board, but I knew it was only a matter of time before one of the grandchildren asked to do so. I thank God for computers and the ability to store pictures on my hard drive. I'm pretty sure I will retain this picture in my heart without the help of my computer files. It deeply impacted my life in a way I never thought possible. It encouraged a desire in my heart to grow into a person with the true spirit of humility and be willing like my Savior to offer my life to serve others.
Thinking back, I remember only one small part of what my granddaughter had said that day as she tried to get our attention.
“They say that the stars smiled down that night on the baby Jesus.”
Just like the scholars, or wise men as we often call them, followed the stars to find the infant King, God's Word is still speaking today if we are open to hearing what it has to say. In today's world, especially at the holidays, we can be as distracted as I was that day when a six year old tried to get my attention.
The command to "work out our own salvation" with fear and trembling can be confusing in light of other scriptures that tell us we are "saved by faith" and its not of ourselves we are saved but by faith and trust in Christ. It's in reading the entire scripture above we see that Christ was willing to become a baby and make Himself a servant that we are able to find the strength and help we need to become beacons of light in this dark world.
I pray my granddaughter's picture of seven happy stars blinking their pleasure at an uncomfortable Savior will always be there to remind me that heaven smiles on us when we give of ourselves to elderly parents, the homeless, the forgotten, the lonely.
God, help me not to forget He wasn't drafted. He volunteered to....
Leave the glories of heaven to become a man....
But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that he became like men and became a human being.”( Philippians 2:5-7)
Father, help me remember my granddaughter's picture of a Christ with no place to rest His head. Please help me not to grumble and complain, but, willingly, become a servant to others. And would you remind me not to be too distracted to see the stars winking an encouragement from time to time?