I’ll admit it.
I’m not much into reality TV.
I like heroic characters and happy endings. There’s just too much reality in reality TV. What’s not boring or silly is irritating and painful.
But there is one show I find quite entertaining. It’s called Undercover Boss.
The president of a large company decides to go undercover to work among his employees. He changes his appearance and enters incognito. He becomes just another new employee, learning the ropes. He has a boss and must take orders and pay attention to instructions. Sometimes he does OK but sometimes he doesn’t and everyone has to be patient with him.
Sometimes he gets yelled at. It’s very humbling.
He learns a lot by working with the workers. He observes and listens. He discovers special needs or wishes that some of the employees have. He is moved to compassion and impressed by their dedication.
Nobody knows who he is. Nobody knows he’s the boss. Nobody recognizes him.
At the end of the show, he gathers his entire workforce together and reveals his secret experiment – and his experience. He tells his workers how grateful he is for them and what he has learned from them – and about them.
He meets privately with the very employees he’s been interacting with. How surprised they are to learn his true identity. He remembers what they told him about their lives – their hopes and dreams and challenges. They are moved to tears by his kindness and generosity.
He helps each one.
It’s his way of showing his appreciation for their faithful service.
When God decided to enter the world he had made, he came incognito.
Nobody expected the Ruler of the universe to come through the virgin womb of a peasant girl by way of a cow stall in a cave. That’s not the way the Queen of England gets around; it’s not how the President travels.
The King of kings and Lord of lords went undercover. From his ivory palaces in heaven, our Messiah chose to come here in poverty.
On the night of his birth, with the exception of an angelic visitation to unknown shepherds in desolate fields, things went on as they had. Bethlehem bustled because of the coming census.
Nobody paid much attention to his birth.
Nobody knew who he was. Nobody recognized him. Nobody knew he was the King.
Some did perhaps. They had inklings. Mary and Joseph had a sense; old Simeon who heard the baby cry in the temple; the shepherds maybe; the three kings from the orient who followed that strange star.
But Jesus Christ entered history in the most unlikely manner.
It’s not the entrance we would have planned for the Creator. But we’re not God and this was his plan.
The way Jesus came was the precursor to his life and ministry among men and women.
He forgave prostitutes and touched lepers. He healed those marginalized by society; embraced crooked tax collectors, picked uneducated fishermen and owned nothing but a cloak. He was the scourge of the hypocrites and self-righteous but loved by sinners, to whom he came. The despised half-breed Samaritans seemed always to win his attention and his favor.
This is the irony of God. It is the wonder of Christmas.
In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul beautifully describes the miracle and glorious mystery of the Advent.
Jesus Christ is in the very “form of God” and “thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (Philippians 2:6, KJV).
In the meaning of the original Greek of the New Testament, Paul tells us Jesus is “essentially one with God … possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God; he did not think this equality with God was a thing to be grasped or retained” (The Amplified Bible).
Jesus “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant …” (verse 7, KJV). He “stripped Himself of all privileges and rightful dignity so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being” (The Amplified Bible).
The King of glory washed the feet of men.
And before his life on earth was over, Jesus would humble himself further to die a painful and shameful criminal’s death on a cross.
For you and for me.
This is what we celebrate. This is the true reason for this season.
Jesus Christ emptied himself of his eternal power and position in order to become one with us.
The heart of Christmas is the incarnation. The heart of the incarnation is the Kenosis – the voluntary self-emptying of our Savior.
God humbled himself.
In his Son and in coming to earth, God gave up the independent exercise of his divine power and privileges. He consented to the limitations of human form.
He became one of us that he might save us – and that in our times of pain we would know that he knows.
In Christ God went undercover.
This is the joy of Christmas. This is the meaning of Immanuel.
This is the beauty of God With Us.