Entrance to the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem.
“He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble” (Luke 1:52).
It must be obvious to everyone that the world is not as it should be. This is not the world that God made because that world was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). What can we say about our world except that it is “very messed up"? There is no darkness like the darkness of not knowing how to get out of the trouble you are in. I met a man who has learned this from hard experience. For years he struggled with a serious alcohol problem. It impacted every part of his life and damaged every relationship. The turning point came, as it so often does, when those nearest to him would not, could not, live with him anymore. A terrible crisis came, he hit rock bottom, and by the grace of God, he looked up and realized that Christ was his only hope. That led to some very difficult choices, and a course of treatment and counseling that continues to this day. He has not, he told me, finished all of the 12 Steps and perhaps would not for a long time. But if you ask him, he would give thanks to people who loved him enough not to let him go on, and he would say, “It was the Lord who changed me. Without him, I would still be drinking and destroying my family.”
If you ever visit the Holy Land, one of the sites you will visit is the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The church is built over the reputed spot where Mary gave birth to Jesus. To get to the church, you first walk across a broad plaza and then come to a very small entrance. In fact, it’s so small that you have to duck down low to get inside. The entrance is deliberately made low because several centuries ago the local big shots liked to ride their horses right into the sanctuary. The priests felt that was inappropriate so they lowered the entrance to force the great men to dismount before entering the church.
The same is true of salvation. If you want to go to heaven, you’ve got to get off your high horse. Until you do, you’ll never be saved. Since you don’t deserve heaven, the only proper response to God’s offer of salvation is to say, “Thank you, Lord God, for what Jesus did for me.” Gratitude, not arrogance, is the language of heaven.
Deliver me, Lord, from thinking too much of myself. When I am tempted to pride, help me to remember that without you, I can do nothing. Amen.
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