Safe in Humility

By Marjorie F. Eddington

Categories: Expressing God, Guidance, Sermon on the Mount

In studying the Christmas narrative, I was struck by how wonderfully Jesus and his family were kept safe. So what helps keep us safe and what from the Christmas story can we learn and use in our lives today?

There are certainly wise, practical things we can do to stay safe. We teach our children how to stay together and notice their surroundings, including people; what to do if they get lost; how to find another mom to help; look both ways before they cross a street; kick and scream “fire” if they’re ever attacked (because people will look around, including the attacker, giving the chance to escape, whereas screaming “help” tends to make people freeze and not help); follow their feelings/intuitions (if they’re uncomfortable with something, leave).

We make sure we notice what’s going on when we walk (not stare down at our phones); check around our car before we get in; protect our space when we take out money at an ATM and put it away quickly; make wise decisions about where and when to go somewhere; walk with confidence so we don’t look like a victim. We have emergency backpacks and plans in place and have our family know evacuation routes. We can even learn self-defense. Most importantly, we trust God: that’s our ultimate safety plan.

God, listening to God’s angels, keeps us safe. The angels communicated to Mary, Joseph, the magi, and the shepherds, telling them what to do, where to go, and when. As a result, they were safe; the baby Jesus was safe; the Christ message to the world was safe.

But had they not heard the messages, had they not been receptive to God’s directives, and not willing to obey God’s commands, the outcome would have been very different. What attitude enabled them to listen and respond? Humility.

Humility is the “freedom from pride or arrogance.” It is also “the submission to the divine will” (Webster). Humility is the understanding that we can’t do things by ourselves, so we lean whole-heartedly on God. Jesus affirmed, “I can of my own self do nothing at all…. I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father who has sent me” (John 5:30 NMB). Jesus lived humbly, knowing that “humanly,” things may be “impossible, but not with God; with God, everything is possible” (Mark 10:27 CJB).

Humility was the attitude Mary had when the angel told her she was going to carry the Messiah: “I am the Lord’s servant,” so carry out your plan (Luke 1:38). What a huge responsibility, and she humbly and gratefully accepted it! She rejoiced with her cousin Elizabeth, but she kept everything that she heard about Jesus close to her heart and didn’t brag or shout. She was submitting to God’s will.

Humility is what Joseph expressed when he heard about Mary’s pregnancy. No arrogance ruined God’s plan. Joseph didn’t take offense: How could she do this to me! Matthew describes him as a “righteous man. Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly” (Matt 1:19 CEB). But when Joseph heard God’s angel message telling him about Jesus, he was receptive to the command and followed the advice to marry Mary.

Neither did pride get in the way of finding a safe place for Mary to deliver her baby—where the animals were sheltered. Talk about humble and lowly, inconspicuous and unexpected! Mary and Joseph didn’t have personal egos that would thwart God’s ability to keep His son safe. They trusted God to take care of all of them. And a manger, the animals’ feed box, was just fine for the Messiah, where Mary laid him down after she lovingly “wrapped him snugly” (Luke 2:7 CEB). Surrounded by the light of love, shining the light of Love, the baby Jesus was safe and sound.

What a wonderful way to think of our children, our loved ones—wrapped snugly in love! They’re safe, just as Jesus was safe in the manger, which is much like an ark, much like the ark in which Moses was placed to keep him safe on the Nile, just a smaller version of the ark in which Noah and his family and the animals floated safely amidst the turbulent storms. We’re all safely sheltered in God’s kingdom.

And it makes sense that Jesus’ first visitors were lowly shepherds. It was they who were receptive to the angel message: “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful joyous news for all people” (Luke 2:10). Those who cared for sheep found the baby Jesus where the angels said to look and spread the good news about the savior.

Now, Herod tried to kill Jesus, but humility again kept Jesus’ family safe. The magi didn’t seek human recognition, nor did they bow down to kingly requests or manipulations. They humbly followed the angel’s directive and went home another way, submitting to God’s will. So, human hatred, revenge, envy, jealousy did not touch Jesus and his family. Joseph was used to listening to the angels. At the angel’s word, he took his family to Egypt, out of reach of Herod’s vengeful killing spree. Until it was time to come back and present to humanity the healing power and presence of Love.

And oh, how we love to feel the tender and loving touch of God’s angels, who guide and guard us! So, as we wisely take the human footsteps regarding protection, we also pray for safety. We turn our focus and attention to God, who is caring for us each and every moment. If we egotistically think it’s solely up to us to protect our family, or if we’re focused on our own will, unwilling to submit to God’s will, we may miss what the angels are telling us. But when we are humbly receptive to the angel messages, we will hear what we need to do. And humility enables us to be responsive, just as those individuals who helped keep Jesus safe were obedient to the divine directives.

So we can rejoice that God protects us; we need not fear. That’s the angel message. As we accept and feel God’s unconditional love for us, we’re able to love ourselves and others. And we may even hear the angel’s song: “Glory to God … and on earth peace” (Luke 2:4).

We’d love to hear from you about how humility and the angel messages have kept you or your family safe.