The apostle Paul writes these words to the church in Philippi
from a Roman prison. His crime? He follows Jesus of Nazareth.
His Christian faith has led to hostility, opposition, and
dubious charges being brought against him, leading to Paul’s
now being, in his own words, ”in chains for Christ” (Phil. 1:13,
niv). This is by no means the first time Paul has suffered for being
a follower of Christ. He has been flogged and beaten with rods.
On other occasions he suffered shipwreck, stoning, and all kinds
of troubles because of his faith. And now, he sits ”in chains for
Christ” to pen a letter to his friends in Philippi. Within a short
period of time Paul will suffer a martyr’s death. So what does
”Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who
. . . emptied himself . . . humbled himself and became obedient
to the point of death—even death on a cross.” Remarkable words
when we consider Paul’s setting. No hatred, no bitterness, no
hardness of heart. Instead, an exhortation to possess and exhibit
the Christlike attitude of service, sacrifice, and self-denial—even
unto death. I can think of no other attitude or mind-set that
could possibly be more contrary to the ways of the world today.
Can anything be more countercultural? more radical?
This is the way of Christ, the way of the cross, the way of
godly love—an unfailing love that knows no limits, a nonlimiting
love that “unknows” our failures. God calls us to this as
followers of Christ. We hear it ourselves but then let it so take
hold of us that it becomes our countercultural way of life.
Lord, teach me how to be humble, and show me how I can serve others today. To the glory of God the Father. Amen.
These texts raise questions about who truly welcomes Jesus and under what circumstances. Isaiah 50 recalls the hostility that inevitably follows servanthood. A moment of acceptance, even welcome, will not hide from the servant the fact of the rejection to come. Psalm 118 claims that the city and the victory and the “one who comes” all belong to God. Any victory declared by human beings is bound to vanish as quickly as the day itself. The Philippians hymn asserts Jesus’ own determination to be obedient even to death and God’s conse- quent exaltation of Jesus above all creation. Even in the Gospel accounts, Jesus’ entry is one of meekness and humility rather than of power and pride.
• Read Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29. How do you rejoice in “the day that the LORD has made”?
• Read Isaiah 50:4-9a. The writer notes that for Isaiah, suffer- ing does not signal divine indifference but plays a part in the world’s bigger story. When have you interpreted your suffering as part of a bigger story?
• Read Philippians 2:5-11. What earthly traits of Jesus’ are evident in your daily living? Do you see yourself living a countercultural lifestyle?
• Read Matthew 21:1-11. Where are you in the Palm Sunday story? How do you respond to Jesus as he enters?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.