Arrogance takes no offseason. When pride inevitably slides down the chimney into our homes this holiday and threatens to disturb the peace, remember what we celebrate. Each Christmas, commemorating the birth of Christ should equip Christians to kill conceit with happy humility.

Keyword: happy. How we are humbled matters.

How the World Humbles

Last year, every relevant radio station in the nation had a song on rotation about humility — an extremely foreign concept to the country — thanks to hip-hop star Kendrick Lamar. Kendrick’s song “HUMBLE.” had listeners across America telling all their cocky friends to sit down and be humble.

Here is the hook of “HUMBLE.” I’ll provide a clean version: “Snitch, be humble (hol’ up, snitch) / Sit down (hol’ up, lil’, hol’ up) / Be humble (hol’ up snitch) / Sit down.”

And that pretty much repeats.

If you couldn’t tell because of my clean version of the song “HUMBLE”, Kendrick calls whoever he’s telling to be humble the “b-word” — a lil’ b-word. He’s belittling them. He’s using an insult to humble them. Kendrick’s solution to the problem of pride is for the proud to think less of themselves.

“Be humble. Because you’s a bum.”

The Apostle Paul is no hip-hop star. But in his letter to the church at Philippi, he, too, wants his listeners to sit down and be humble. However, the reason why Paul tells the Philippians to be humble is significantly different than Kendrick’s reason.

How the Word Humbles

Paul writes in Philippians 2:3-8:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Why does Paul call the Philippians to sit down and be humble? Because they’re bums?

No. Paul gives them not a reason to look down on themselves, but rather a model to up to.

“Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.”

Jesus was equal with God. Jesus was God. And he stayed God. But he emptied himself of his privilege, “by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

2,000ish years ago, the infinite became an infant.

Jesus, the Word who created the world, became a baby. All of a sudden, the God who is never tired needed naps. The God who knows the number of hairs on your head needed to learn. The God who is in control of every piece of dust needed to flee from danger. The God who needs nothing needed to be fed, bathed and wiped.

If that sounds borderline disrespectful, that’s the point! This is humiliation. Jesus, who is infinitely glorious, infinitely beautiful and infinitely mighty took the form of a servant — someone who is a slave to the desire of others.

Jesus deserved to be served. He’s more significant than everyone in the whole world combined — times a billion. Yet Jesus is the one who takes the form of a servant and washes his friends’ feet.

Humility by Wonder

This Christmas, resist skimming over the nativity story that you’ve heard 10 thousand times. Tradition will either make us numb to magnificence or refresh our awe of it.

Be in awe. Marvel at God’s humility, and marvel that God calls us to imitate him.

How does Paul aim to persuade the Philippians to “in humility count others more significant than yourselves” and “look to the interests of others?”

He wants them to think of themselves in relation to Christ Jesus. He wants to see humility because if Christ humbled himself, those who are in Christ will humble themselves. If the King of the Universe humbled himself, those who the King of the Universe dwells in will humble themselves.

And he humbled himself even further than his birth in a manger. Verse eight: “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Paul concludes his account of Jesus’s humiliation with his death on the cross. Because crucifixion was the most excruciating method of execution in ancient times. The human form that Jesus took was nailed to a cross. Jesus hung suspended in the air, with little to no clothes on. Which is the least of your concerns when your ribs are crushing your lungs.

The king of the Universe allowed mere human beings, who He made from dust, to kill him. That’s what Jesus’s obedience led to — death on a cross.

Only those whose identity is in Christ alone can count others more significant than themselves because He who is infinitely valuable counted us more significant than himself. He who was infinitely high descended lower than we ever could, so now we decrease, to increase him (John 3:30).

Christians are not shamed by condemnation. Christians are set free to model our Maker — set free from sin by the blood of Jesus — who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross (Hebrews 11:2).