A paradox is an apparent contradiction which conceals a profound truth — and the Bible is filled with paradoxes: We triumph by first surrendering to God. We find rest under a yoke. We see the unseen through faith. We find freedom in becoming Christ's bondservants. We are made great by becoming little. We gain through giving. We become wise by becoming fools for Christ's sake. We can only truly live if we die to self.
Yet the greatest paradox in the entire Bible is found in the birth of Jesus Christ. During the time of Jesus' birth, Caesar Augustus was the greatest ruler of the world. He possessed absolute power and incredible wealth. Yet even with all of his earthly authority and riches, Caesar was just a man. When God Himself came to earth, He was not the leader of the largest empire. He was born as a poor and obscure child in Bethlehem. The pagan man, Caesar, was at the height of power; the God-infant, Jesus, was in the depths of helplessness. Caesar was the wealthiest man on earth; Jesus was one of the poorest. Caesar slept in a Roman palace on a golden bed covered with fine linens; Jesus slept in a manger, bundled in swaddling clothes.
But none of the wealth or power that Caesar possessed compared to the glory and splendor that Jesus had left in heaven. "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Jesus endured a human, earthly birth so that everyone who follows Him can undergo a spiritual, heavenly birth. Jesus found no room at the inn, yet He said, "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2). Jesus became a member of a human family so that those who love Him can become members of His heavenly family.
The infant Jesus was pursued by the ruthless and evil King Herod who killed the baby boys in the Bethlehem area, hoping to end the threat of the One "born king of the Jews" (see Matthew 2:1-18). Yet Jesus was born for the very purpose of pursuing and destroying the root of all evil, Satan.
We can learn from the paradoxes of Christmas: We should not judge things by appearance, because God hid His greatest gift in a humble package. We should not judge an end by its beginning, because the babe in the manger will one day return in full glory. We should make room in our hearts for others, so that we can find room for Jesus. By reaching out and witnessing to those who need to hear about Jesus, we can experience Christ even more fully.
In celebration of His birth, thank Jesus for giving up the riches and splendor of heaven to be born a poor and humble infant. Thank Him for dying on the cross, even though He Himself was sinless, so that we may find forgiveness and reconciliation with the Father.
"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness." Philippians 2:6,7
Excerpted from My Journal, a monthly devotional magazine from Leading The Way with Dr. Michael Youssef.
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