The last few months have been rough for my family and me. We suffered sinus infections, Covid, hospitalizations (on Thanksgiving), and even the stomach flu last weekend. Before that, we boasted (as a joke) that we were superhumans, unable to catch the virus. Jeremiah 9:23 says, “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, nor the strong man in his strength, nor the wealthy man in his riches.”
But God knows our hearts and the intentions of our comments.
During the “throws” of my turmoil, a strange consideration came to mind: “Are you thankful?” Thankful? For what? What a strange thought.
I remember hearing a sermon from Elisabeth Elliot on gratitude, so I chalked it up to that. I murmured, “Okay, thanks,” then moved on. But why was I thanking God?
Philippians 4:11b-12 is an astonishing section of scripture. Paul says, “… for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”
Now let me remind you that Paul underwent the worse torture for his faith. In 2 Corinthians 11:23ff, he says, “… with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews forty lashes less one. Three times they beat me with rods. Once, they stoned me. I was shipwrecked three times; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.”
How could he endure?
Could it be that Paul understood the impact of Jesus’ birth in our lives? Hebrews 4:14-15 says, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Jesus Christ, as incarnate God, came to earth and subjected himself to everything we undergo daily. Why? So, he could identify with us. When we say, “I’m hurt. I’m sad. I feel betrayed, or alone,” Jesus understands because he, in human form, underwent the same anguish.
The Christmas season becomes more profound when we grasp this gift of Christ’s birth. We have a God who wanted to identify with our suffering to comfort us and give us strength in time of need. Hebrew 4:16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
I would be remiss to end here. Jesus’ birth is more than him nodding in agreement at shared pain. His sympathy stretches further than our physical or emotional condition; Christ became man to die on our behalf. He stood in the place of death for unrighteous men—because he loves us.
Jesus Christ is holy. He is the sole human who could die in our place and pay the penalty for our sin. As Hebrews 4 states above, he suffered temptation in all things–yet he never succumbed to sin. Christ’s pure and holy life offered as a sacrifice on our behalf is the ultimate gift of sympathy for a wicked generation.
Therefore, this Christmas, as we focus on the baby Jesus, remember that he came to earth as a man so that he could be our High Priest who understands our weakness.