[written by Bere Cowpersmith]
When I was little and my family lived in Nepal, we would walk to the corner store and buy a bottle of Takura, a strongly concentrated lemon syrup, which we would mix with water and turn into a refreshing drink to accompany our meal. Once home, my father, a Mexican man, would help by calling out instructions. “¡Rebájalo!”, he’d say in Spanish, which translates to “reduce it!”. The water would reduce the Takura until it was just right – refreshingly sweet.
Jesus too reduced himself. We read this in Philippians 2:6-7. I enjoy the ISV version – it has a poetic ring.
In God’s own form existed he,
and shared with God equality,
deemed nothing needed grasping.
Instead, poured out in emptiness,
a servant’s form did he possess,
a mortal man becoming.
Jesus was poured out. He was reduced.
I heard this growing up and thought I understood what it meant. I would reduce my accomplishments to appear humble. I would reduce others to help get rid of their pride. But I wasn’t truly being emptied nor reduced. I was hollow and dry.
It took many years for me to understand what it means to be emptied and reduced like Jesus. By the grace of God, I heard another set of words with a poetic ring in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.
If I speak in the tonguesof men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing (NIV).
The emptying and reducing I was striving for was leaving me hollow and dry because it was missing the key ingredient that makes everything Jesus does so beautiful – love.
The apostle Paul knew this was the key ingredient. Before he writes about Jesus emptying himself, he points to love.
Philippians 2:1-2 (ISV) Therefore, if there is any encouragement in the Messiah, if there is any comfort of love, if there is any fellowship in the Spirit, if there is any compassion and sympathy, then fill me with joy by having the same attitude, sharing the same love, being united in spirit, and keeping one purpose in mind.
Jesus, our Messiah, lowered himself into love. Only love is powerful enough to fill us with joy even as we are being emptied and reduced.
By God’s grace, we can do this too, by receiving the love of Jesus and sharing it generously, turning our lives into a refreshingly sweet cup for others to enjoy.
I have one last poetic ring for you – the clink of a glass full of Takura drink, as we cheer to love.
We reduce ourselves.
[For further reflection, we invite you to this Proskuneo Christmas song, “Nos Rebaixamos” in Portuguese and English.]