Opinion

Christ’s birth teaches us to seek humility in all things, even when we’re personally attacked

Humility doesn't come when you're being praised; it's found when you're being persecuted
Thu Dec 24, 2020 - 11:30 am EST
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December 24, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — One of my favorite movies on the life of Christ is the 1977 film Jesus of Nazareth.

Although there are some parts that don’t line up theologically with what the Church teaches, in my opinion it’s the most complete, well-produced, and well-casted depiction of what Our Lord and Savior did when he walked the earth.

There’s a memorable scene in the movie where the famous actor James Earl Jones portrays one of the three wise men. Jones and his two colleagues had just arrived at Christ’s birthplace.

“I did not know what we were to find,” he says. “And coming here, a stable. I thought my brothers were mistaken. But now I see the justice of it. There could be no other place.”

To which one of the other men responded approvingly, “not in glory but in humility.”

The devil hates humility

The humility of Christ’s birth is at the heart of our faith. Our Lord could have been born on a sprawling estate in a palace with gold-plated walls, bronze statues, and flowing water. It would have been his right to be born in such a place. His kingly majesty deserves that and so much more.

Instead, he chose to enter this world on a chilly December night in a cave just feet away from smelly barn animals. Most world leaders today would be embarrassed to admit they’d been born under such circumstances.

Christ’s humble birth reflects the equally humble decision God made to become man in the first place.

Many theologians have argued that the reason Lucifer rebelled was because God revealed to him the plan of the Incarnation. Upon learning that God was going to lower himself to the status of a man — a far lesser creature than even the angels — Lucifer became incensed, infamously shouting, “I will not serve!”

A lesson for all life’s hardships

God’s decision to become man and to be born in a stable should remind us to be humble in all aspects of life, even if and especially when we find ourselves under assault from others.

It’s easy to want to fight back when we’re treated unfairly. But that's not necessarily what God wants all the time. When Christ was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, St. Peter drew his sword to defend him. Instead of rallying to his cause, Christ told him to put away it.

Furthermore, when Our Lord was spat upon and mocked before the Jewish high priest Caiaphas, he didn’t exchange insult for insult. He remained silent and simply called for the truth to be made known. “If what I said is wrong, bear witness to it. But if what I said is right, why do you strike me?”

The lesson in all this is that when we’re called names and profanities are thrown our way, and when our integrity and reputation are being unjustly smeared, we must strive to be as Christ-like as possible.

That doesn’t mean to let our enemies trample over us. The Bible is replete with references to God taking vengeance on evildoers. Psalm 110 begs God to “clothe” our false accusers “with disgrace” and to “make them wear shame like a mantle.”

Moreover, we all have a right to a good name. “Whoever unjustly deprives his neighbor of his good name is guilty of sin,” St. Francis de Sales says.

But when we’re faced with persecution, we should remain calm, speak charitably, and refuse to meet fire with fire. “A mild answer breaks up wrath: but a harsh word stirs up fury,” Proverbs 15:1 says. “Be not friendly with an ill-tempered man, nor the companion of a wrathful one, lest you learn his ways, and get yourself into a snare,” Proverbs 22:24-25.

Ultimately, correcting the record and clearing our name is a matter of justice but it’s not the end of the world if things don’t end up going our way. We live in a broken world where injustice often prevails. We should simply offer up whatever we’re forced to endure for our own salvation and for the salvation of others.

“Let us keep our eyes fixed on our Crucified Savior,” St. Francis advises. “He will watch over our reputation, and if He permits it to be lost, He will restore it tenfold…If we are unjustly blamed, let us calmly oppose the calumny with truth; but if it perseveres, let us persevere in our humility, for we cannot better protect our reputation than by trusting it wholly in the hands of God.”


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