Our church have been running a series of podcasts during Advent looking at aspects of the Christmas story and this week’s were all about values that arise out of it. Today I contributed a short podcast on “weakness.”
You can listen to the podcast here – and do be sure to check out all the other brilliant talks available.
Here’s a written version of the talk for those who reading to listening to my dulcet tones
Weakness – a Christmas value
My grandad was tall and strong. I don’t remember much about him, he died just before my 5th birthday but I remember that, a little. To help keep that picture in mind we have a picture of him over the fire-place with his army regiment boxing team. At over 6 foot, he towers over the rest of them. Granddad saw himself as self-sufficient and didn’t see the need for God. Religion was for weak people. Then one day he found himself in hospital, with not long to live due to terminal cancer. Grandad had to recognise that he was weak and that he needed God.
We don’t like to think of ourselves as weak. Weakness is a negative. Our culture worships the strong, healthy, fit, powerful and young. Yet the Gospel message goes counter to that culture. Paul, an early church leader and missionary writes
“God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; “
We see this in the Christmas story. Jesus is the one who was strong, mighty, powerful, majestic. In fact as God he is the one who is almighty and all powerful. Yet, he chose to leave behind the glory of heaven. Here’s Paul again
Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Jesus chose willingly to become weak and helpless. In the words of a newer Christmas carol
Jesus, joy of the highest heaven,
Born as a little baby
Under a wondrous star.
Like us, crying He takes His first breath
Held by His mother, helpless
Close to her beating heart.
Jesus, laid in a lowly manger,
Facing a world of dangers,
Come to turn me a stranger
Into a child of God.
That weakness of course is not only seen in the manger at Bethlehem but on the cross at Calvary where Jesus allowed himself to be accused and cursed, stripped, beaten and nailed to an instrument of torture to die, taking my place and yours.
This reminds me of God’s love and kindness to me. It’s a cause of thankfulness and gratitude. But it also helps me to rethink strength and weakness. I want to convince myself that I am strong and self-sufficient. Every day I try to demonstrate that I’m in control.
Yet we are not strong. I’m not strong. There are daily reminders to that which we all face. For some of us those reminders come in the form of ill-health or disability. For some of us it has been our powerlessness in the face of the economic consequences as we’ve faced job insecurity, redundancy and dependency on others. We have also been reminded these last few years that we are weak in the face of death.
Sin and temptation, addictions and habits that we cannot kick also tell us that we are weak.
Most of all I’m weak, finite and fragile in comparison to the great, infinite and eternal God. Who can stand before him?
Christmas tells me that it’s okay to recognise my weakness. In fact it is necessary. I can say that I’m weak because the one who is strong became weak and stepped into our world to come alongside me.
Footnote, a lot of pastors and leaders struggle with weakness especially when it’s experienced in the crippling form of depression. This year a bunch of us decided to tell our stories of weakness and grace. We may have a thorn in our side but God’s grace is made perfect in weakness.
Check out The pastor with a Thorn in his side which is available from