Advent Unwrapped: The Gift of Humility

By Jennie Pollock | 17 December 2018 | Comments (2)

Humility and pride are difficult things to pin down. We tend to think of pride as an arrogance about our own abilities or status, and therefore think that if we put ourselves down, or maintain a sense of our own insignificance, we must be being humble. Yet look at Mary’s song in Luke 1:46-55. In verse 48 she declares both that God has seen her humility and that all nations will honour her:

… he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed…

Total humility, and total self-assurance at the same time. How did she achieve this balance? Because she knew it was all about God:

…for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name (v 49).

Mary knew that she was nothing special, but she didn’t say, “Oh no, Lord, you can’t mean me – I’m too poor to bring up the messiah. My home isn’t good enough. I’m too young, I’m not from the right sort of family. What will people think? What if I mess it up…?” Her humility meant that she knew her qualifications – or lack of them – were entirely irrelevant. God isn’t looking for people who are good at stuff, who have lots of resources to offer or who have got their lives straight. He is looking for people who aren’t caught up with the desire to look good, to preserve their reputation, or to live a successful – or quiet – life. He is looking for people whose focus is not on themselves at all, but on him.

He is looking for those who will say “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).

What would it look like for us to set aside our pride this Christmas, and really say to God “I am your servant; use me as you will”? It would relieve an awful lot of pressure, for a start: we wouldn’t have to worry about what others thought of us, about whether our house was Instagram-perfect, or our meal was cooked to perfection. We wouldn’t have to spend more than we can afford in an effort to make sure our gifts and celebrations meet some standard set by the TV adverts.

Many of us find it challenging to spend so much time with extended family over Christmas, and pride is often at the root of our differences and disputes. The mother-in-law who criticizes the way you roast potatoes, the brother who boasts endlessly about having all the latest gadgets, the teenager who turns up their nose at the gifts you hunted for hours to find. These things hurt because we think we deserve better. They hurt our pride, and our instinctive response is of anger or defensiveness, causing us to lash out or close off. Neither is the response of a humble heart.

What might it look like if alongside the beautifully-wrapped parcels we gave our family members another gift, the gift of humility? It could mean giving the critic gratitude for her help and advice. It could mean expressing genuine thankfulness for the brother’s good fortune. It could mean giving gifts for the joy of giving, not for the thanks they will receive.

Joseph’s gift of humility to Mary meant that he set aside all his hopes and dreams to care for a woman who was carrying someone else’s child. Mary’s gift of humility to the Lord was to surrender her whole self – body and soul, reputation and security – to his will.

Humility is a hard gift to receive, but a wonderful one to give. May you have a very happy, and humble, Christmas.

 

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Posted by Jennie Pollock

Jennie Pollock is a freelance writer and editor. She lives and worships in central London, a gift for which she is forever thankful. In her spare time she loves exploring the city's culture, dancing, providing hospitality... and curling up with a good book and a cup of tea. She blogs at jenniepollock.com and tweets as @missjenniep

comments:

Carol Dickinson

December 19, 2018 7:47 AM
Thank you for this today, challenged, inspired and motivated to allow God to change and help me in this area.

Gillian Libby

December 20, 2018 8:41 AM
Thank you for this helpful piece but can we please stop perpetuating the unhelpful stereotype of 'the mother in law'

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