Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Not to Be Served

Are you looking forward to a merry Christmas? Or are you anticipating this Friday with some dread, expecting yet another round of cooking and dishwashing for thirty people, another day of listening to family squabbles and "this isn't what I wanted" whining--or worse, another lonely "holiday" isolated in a tiny apartment? Or are you one of those who half wishes the actual day would never come because it signals the imminent end of the music, the parties, and the extra time off?

Whatever one's personal reasons for not awaiting December 25 with unmitigated joy, they all begin with I: I want someone else to wait on me for a change; I want total freedom from stress; I want to be part of a tight-knit group; I want the fun to last forever. Many people let a selfish "I must have things exactly right" attitude ruin their holidays. Now, rest, peace, love, and even pleasure are legitimate desires up to a point--the point being when "I wish I had" becomes "I must have; I am too important not to have."

The irony of doing this at Christmas is that it flies straight in the face of Christ's example:

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:25, NIV).

"For even Christ did not please himself" (Rom. 15:3a).

"[Christ] made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant" (Phil. 2:7a).

The One Who had every right to have things go His way chose instead to give up all special privileges and serve humanity to the fullest. Who are we to insist on always getting what we "deserve"?

More than that, serving others needn't be misery and drudgery. There's nothing Christian in the idea that duty demands we sacrifice the happiness that would be ours if we were at the top of the social status chain. Those who follow this line of thinking are unhappy not because they serve, but because they remain selfish, interested primarily in the future rewards they expect. (That's the attitude that refuses to welcome a prodigal because all it sees is someone else being handed what it slaved for.) But those motivated by love--who put others first for Christ's sake--are actually much happier than those who always get special privileges.

If we learn to let Christ fill us with His love and lead us in following His example, we can do better than a "merry Christmas." We can have a blessed Christmas--and the blessings can stay with us long after December 25.

In God's way, the mark of the leader
Is not the applause of the masses--
Is not being pampered and bowed to,
Nor turning each head as one passes;
The one who would lead with God's guiding
Must kneel at the feet of God's people,
Must do even lowly work gladly,
Not look for applause from the steeple.

For Jesus, the ultimate Leader,
Came not to receive earthly glory,
Nor wear golden crowns set with rubies--
Humility flows through His story.
His way was the way of the servant,
His path one of lowliest labor;
He was not ashamed of the common;
He looked not in scorn at His neighbor.

He lived all His life wrapped in weakness;
He died in deep humiliation;
And all of His suffering was for us--
Our freedom and our restoration.
Let us show our thanks in our service
To all for the sake of His Kingdom,
And humble ourselves before others,
That our simple meekness may win them.

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