In December of 1949 Geoffrey Bull, a British missionary to Tibet, was seized by Communist soldiers. Day and night his captors drove him across frigid mountains, leaving him cold, hungry, exhausted and despairing of life. Late one afternoon he entered a small village where he was shown to an upstairs room that was swept clean and heated by a small charcoal brazier.
After being provided a meager supper, he was ordered to go downstairs, where the animals were kept under part of the house, to feed the horses. After making his way down a notched tree trunk into the stable, he found himself standing in pitch blackness. His boots squished in the manure and straw on the floor, and the stench of animals was nauseating. Cold, weary, lonely and ill, he began to feel sorry for himself.
As he continued to grope his way in the darkness, expecting to be kicked at any moment by one of the ill-tempered horses, the thought suddenly flashed into his mind, “What’s today?” He had to think for a moment, because while traveling the days had begun to run together. Then it came to him, “It’s Christmas Eve.”
Later he wrote in his book When Iron Gates Yield: “I stood suddenly still in that Oriental manger. To think that my Savior was born in a place like this. To think that He came all the way from heaven to some wretched eastern stable, and what is more to think that He came for me. How men beautify the cross and the crib, as if to hide the fact that at birth we resigned Him to the stench of beasts and at death exposed Him to the shame of rogues.”
Bull added, “I returned to the warm, clean room which I enjoyed even as a prisoner, bowed to thankfulness and worship.”
This Christmas season may we similarly thank and praise the Lord Jesus Christ for leaving the glories of heaven to come to earth in our behalf. As God the Son He lowered Himself infinitely by coming to be born in such humble circumstances, by serving humankind with His life and by dying on the cross for our sins.
The timeless words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:5-11 remind us of both Christ’s condescension and subsequent exaltation: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 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. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!
“Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Copyright 2013 by Vance E. Christie