Published December 24 2012
Forum editorial: Manger calls us to humilityAs we look into the manger of Christmas, what we behold is strange, indeed.
We see the infinite God and creator of the universe brought down to the form of a human infant. We see a God who left untold glory to lie in humble estate. We see a mighty king whose coming was heralded by simple shepherds.
It is a picture of humility. It is a picture of self-abasement. When Jesus would later call his followers to deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow him, he would call them to the path he had already taken from heaven to earth. It was the path of humility, of submission to God, and one that would ultimately lead to a cross.
Humility stands in opposition to pride. It is the opposing virtue of a vice. And how much of human suffering has that vice caused? War, infidelity, insult and division all find fertile ground there. Pride is not simple vanity, the desire to be seen and admired. It is the exaltation of the self, the placing of one’s self in the king’s seat to be served, pleased and coddled.
Too often, self-worship is extolled as a virtue. The self is god, happiness its idol – and the realization of that happiness the false measure of a life’s worth.
But in both the manger and the cross, we see a call away from the tyranny of the self and to the benevolent kingship of God. The tradition of giving in this season, though too often marred by excess, is not simply a fitting reminder of the gifts of the magi to the Christ child, but a fitting tribute to the ultimate act of self-emptying love, when God became one with his creation to save his creatures.
Not stopping there, the Christian sees this babe in the manger walk a path to the cross where he will bear the brunt of the world’s evil.
In this act of self-denial – a self-denial born of love for the other and for the Divine – we see a God who fully enmeshes himself in the darkest places of human experience and suffering. As one philosopher said, when the world asks, “Where is God?” in times of tragedy, the Christian should point to the cross and say, “There is God, a God who enters into the suffering of his creation.” In both the cross and the manger, the Christian finds a creator who fully enters into the human experience and suffering, humbling himself to become, in the deepest and truest sense, Immanuel – God with us.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.