“And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8)
Christians follow Christ. He, of course, is our Head (Colossians 1:18), and the One we must follow (John 12:26). Yet, in the Incarnation, which we celebrate each Christmas, we must not lose sight of the fact that Christ was following another’s will. Christ came to die, as the Father willed it (Acts 2:23). Yielding to the will of another. That is what obedience is. This is what our Christmas hustle and bustle causes us to miss in our remembrance each December. Let us briefly consider a few examples of Christmas Following.
First, this is the season of gifts and invitations. Who are you following when you do engage in those? Actually buying that gift that another desires or even attending a function at another’s request is not obedience, let alone what it means to follow Christ at Christmas. Christian, the lesson of the Incarnation for us, is not simply to get the right gift or say yes to each invitation. Christ’s example was not just to blissfully and thoughtfully engage in the usual traditions. Instead, following, as Christ did, means often making some tough decisions that others may not like, as opposed to decisions that simply make others feel better. Following Christ means you follow after the will of God, and not the will of man. Yes, your co-workers may really desire for you to join them at the work Christmas party, but the location, the behaviours and the celebrations may actually be of an attitude that moves away from Christ, and impairs your witness. And in that sense, God’s will is not only clear (1 Corinthians 15:33; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5), but it is God’s will we must follow, in such cases, over man’s.
Consider also who the young couple follows at Christmas when plans are being set. Both families of the young couple want the married pair to join them for Christmas, and continue their traditions. However, the son or daughter now has a spouse to love and respect (Ephesians 5:22-33), and God’s will to follow (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5) as they carve out a new life and space together. For the young married couple that has left Dad and Mom and become one flesh, they are called to follow Christ by honoring their parents (Ephesians 6:2). That may mean a new 3rd option at Christmas, that first considers the marital union, then looks to honor respective families at get-togethers.
Finally, consider who the parent follows as they seek to gift their children at Christmas. Yes, it may feel very good to fulfill your child’s desires for that one, “have-to-have” gift. But, is that fulfillment actually pandering to a very different desire that stands against the teachings of patience, gratitude and prudence that you have been teaching your children the rest of the year? Teach your children to follow Christ this Christmas, by first showing them that the only true “have-to-have” gift is the one that is freely offered in the salvation offered in the person, work and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Christian, follow like Christ this Christmas. Following His example means we humble ourselves in submission to the will of God – in our gift-giving, RSVPS, traditions and messages – and yes, even to the point of death for all other desires, no matter how costly. May that Christmas Following be true of us all this season!