One of the new television programs this season that we have enjoyed is called “Undercover Boss,” and shows what takes place as the CEO of a company disguises himself and goes undercover and works for a week in various aspects of his business. He is supposedly competing with another individual to get a job with the company and they are doing a reality show about the two, so have a camera crew around as they work. In most cases, it is a very humbling experience for the CEO as he is usually incapable of performing at a level to actually get hired by his own company! In a couple cases he even got fired in the very brief time he worked for one of his employees! He usually attempted to work at 4 or 5 jobs and/or locations. In doing so, he found some very dedicated employees and how hard they really work and the difficult life situation in which some of them are.
When he goes undercover he also leaves his family and his plush home and surroundings and stays at a very modest motel near the job for which he is supposedly applying. At the end of the week, he moves back home and then those he worked for are called into the corporate office to give their evaluation as to which of the two employees should be hired. What they don’t know is that they are really going to meet the CEO of the company who then reveals to them that he had gone undercover and worked for them. As they realize the hard time they gave their “big boss,” it is rather embarrassing, especially if they “fired him!” But then he compliments them on what a hard, enthusiastic worker they are and rewards them for their efforts and often makes some changes to improve the company from the things he learned as he was undercover. Then all the employees of the company are gathered together where they get to hear about the CEO’s experiences as he had gone undercover and what he learned and what changes he and the company are going to make as a result.
I am reminded as I watch the reality show of how our “CEO” went “undercover.” That is, how God the Son, our Creator, came to earth and took on human form as a helpless little baby in Bethlehem. How He had to be held and nurtured like any other baby. And how He wasn’t born in a king’s palace but in a cave or a stable where He was laid in an animal feeding trough and the only ones to welcome Him besides Mary and Joseph were a few astonished, smelly shepherds and probably a menagerie of animals (and later some magi from the east). What an inconceivable scene! The Creator of the universe coming to take on the very form of one of His creatures in order to die for them. Talk about humbling.
The Apostle John, arguably Jesus’ closest earthly friend, rather than give an account of the birth of Christ such as we read in Luke or Matthew, relates His coming to earth this way: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John (the baptist). He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through Him. He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:1-14).
The Apostle Paul also speaks about the incarnation (God becoming man) as he writes to the church at Philippi, saying: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in “Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).
God the Son left the glory of heaven and made Himself helpless, vulnerable, hungry, and tired. He was misunderstood, mistreated, and ultimately crucified. Nothing could prepare us to understand the depth of His love as demonstrated in His unimaginable humility. His actions on that wonderful day we celebrate every year as Christmas displayed love better than any definition could ever hope to do. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” (Jn. 3:16, 17). These familiar verses are the Magna Carta of the incarnation. Christmas is God unrecognized, God unexpected, God misunderstood (the “Undercover Boss”). It is also to our utter amazement and joy, God delightfully revealed. Though it had been prophesied, His birth was nothing we expected, and more than we could have hoped for. His humility touches us deeply, revealing to us the depth of God’s love from His humble birth to His humiliating and agonizing death on the cross. It is proof of the love He has for us. We could never have sought, understood or recognized such a God, so He had to come looking to us. That is the inescapable conclusion of the Christmas story. God came pursuing us. He came to reveal Himself to us because He wanted us to know Him. He wanted us to know the depth of His love for us. Words weren’t enough. Only actions could communicate the extent to which He would go to bring us back home.
We can never hope to capture the Christmas spirit unless we understand the meaning of the incarnation, of how God loved us so much that He was willing to come to earth and to be one of us, to reveal Himself and then to be arrested, tortured and put to death to pay the penalty for our sins. We call it Christmas–the incarnation. The day God became a man. With Paul we should all proclaim, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” Have you received God’s love gift? Have you personally asked Christ to be your Savior and Lord? If not, why not do so. It will be your best Christmas ever!