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Humble Beginnings

Updated: Sep 2, 2019

Chan Gin Kai

Luke 2:16-40

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. (Luke 2:16-20)

Jesus was not born in a palace in the holy city of Jerusalem, but in Bethlehem, and put in a manger. The first to celebrate his birth (besides Mary and Joseph) were not royalty or dignitaries, but lowly shepherds who had come in dirty from the fields. The first to announce his birth were not royal heralds but those same shepherds. Why did he choose a lowly birth?

Jesus was brought to the Temple, “to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons’” (Luke 2:24). The Law required that a lamb and a dove or pigeon be sacrificed, but made a provision for the poor who could not afford a lamb by allowing them to sacrifice two doves or pigeons instead (Leviticus 12). Jesus’ earthly parents were poor.

The ones to greet and bless Jesus at the Temple were not high-ranking priests, but a man named Simeon and an old widow named Anna. God had not chosen them for their rank or pedigree, but for their devotion. Simeon was described as “righteous and devout” and “waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him” (Luke 2:25). Anna was dedicated and “never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.” (Luke 2:37)

Joseph, Mary and Jesus then “returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth”. It was a small town with a bad reputation, and Jesus was raised as the son of a poor carpenter. But Jesus “grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.” (Luke 2:40)

A Reflection Of His Humility

Jesus is of course the Son of God, and he is God. But his beginnings on earth were without pomp and pageantry. This is a reflection of Jesus’ humble nature. Jesus had, throughout his ministry, preached and demonstrated humility. He taught his disciples that “the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves” (Luke 22:26). Jesus washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). And he “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8)

Jesus never impressed people with wealth, titles or any outward signs of importance. It was his love that touched people’s hearts, and his wisdom that convinced people’s minds. His character and righteousness won people’s respect, and became an example for all of us to follow. Style is not required if you’ve got substance.

Sadly, the world behaves in the opposite way. Many are eager to flaunt their academic results and work achievements. They boast about their trophies and even sexual exploits. They show off their looks and wealth. Some of us get infected with this silly 'disease' too. We get caught up in the same self-indulgent race to gain one-up over others through superficial accomplishments. And we become shallow enough to respect cash over character, rank over righteousness.

The Way To Find Sincerity

Jesus’ humble beginnings were also a deliberate plan to deliver his message correctly. How would it have worked if Jesus were born into royalty? What if he had been a Pharaoh? Or was the heir of Nebuchadnezzar? Or became a Roman or Chinese or Maurya emperor? It is true that would not have fulfilled the prophecies, but God could have gotten the prophets to deliver a different set of prophecies earlier and given Jesus a different set up. Wouldn’t a more powerful background have made the spread of his message easier?

If Jesus were an emperor and had commanded royal messengers to deliver his sermons, it wouldn’t have impacted his audience the same way. If he had decreed obedience to his teachings, he would have gotten acquiescence by force and not sincere repentance. He would have been surrounded by sycophants who were out to flatter him, instead of disciples who were genuinely devoted to him.

It is only natural that we want to be blessed not just spiritually, but physically as well. But is it our gratitude towards Jesus that turns us to him, or is it our desire for blessings? Are our prayers more about what we want from God, or a worship of His greatness and brokenness over our sins? Jesus is after sincere hearts.

Chan Gin Kai

Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. In church, he serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God".

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