[Christ Jesus], who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.
(Philippians 2:6–7, NRSV)
Last Christmas, my family and I experienced life in a different hemisphere. An alumnus’s family had invited us to spend the holidays with them in Australia. When we arrived a few days before Christmas, it felt strange to shop dressed in shorts and flip-flops.
Aussie believers usually attend church on Christmas Day—even if the holiday doesn’t fall on Sunday—so when the day arrived, we gathered and sang praises, hailing the incarnate Deity.
Afterward, instead of chestnuts roasting, we smelled suntan lotion. Instead of sweaters, we wore “bathers” with cover-ups to the table. Mangos replaced cranberries. And we yanked on “crackers”—noisemakers—before saying grace and digging into the shrimp on the “barbie.” Afterward, we headed down to the beach with our mates, passing wisteria-draped trellises before watching the kids paddle in new rafts.
Everything was different. And celebrating in a different hemisphere helped me contemplate Christmas from heaven’s point of view. Did the Father celebrate the Son’s transfer from heaven to a womb? How did it feel for the second person of the Godhead to inhabit flesh? Because I was “down under,” I also considered what it meant for the Son of God to come down and put Himself under others. How could the King who is lord of Versailles and The Lodge and Buckingham Palace and the Grand Kremlin combined—the One for whom the very earth is but a footstool—become a slave?
Two thousand years ago, Paul had a similar contemplation: “[Christ Jesus], who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6–7).
As much as I enjoy a white Christmas, I loved the shock of the blue-sky kind. By laying aside all my usual traditions for one season, I could see more clearly what our celebrations had in common: Christ was “pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel”—God. With us.