Think about the last time that you walked past a bum, sprawled out across the sidewalk. What was your gut response: Pity? Contempt? A mixture of the two? In any case, I’m pretty sure you didn’t steal his backpack. Their life is hard enough without losing what little they have. Yet they are frequently victims of such crimes.
There was one police department that did something to protect them. They had an officer go undercover as an unconscious bum while his partners arrested anyone who stole his stuff. Score one for the good guys!
In an interview, the undercover cop described the “bum-ification” process of looking and smelling the part. He didn’t shave or shower for a couple of days. Then he took on a bum’s garb – multiple layers of torn and unwashed clothes, doused in cheap beer. Next, he went to the local car wash, rubbed his hands in the car grime, and smeared it all over his neck and face. In order to save the bums, he became a bum.
At church yesterday, I was trying to think of a way to describe the miracle of Christmas. This image of an officer-turned-bum is what came to mind. In the words of Philippians:
[Jesus], being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself and became obedient to death –
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Our God sank down to the depths of humanity, putting on himself all of our filth and stench in order to save us.
But don’t forget that the officer-turned-bum never ceased to be an officer. It was because of his authority that he had the power to save. Jesus made himself nothing yet never ceased to be, in very nature, God. He retained his divine character – a God of love, grace, righteousness, and compassion – able to save us.
Here’s what blows my mind: Though our Savior shed his radiance and took on our humanity, he didn’t lose any of his glory. Rather than sinking to our level, he showed us what God is like – the Greatest who willing pours himself out for the least. In the rare moments when I really grasp this wonder, I am left speechless and can only whisper in awe with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest!”
So this Christmas, we celebrate the God who became a bum for bums like us.
 Philippians 2:6-11. In the original Greek, this passage was a poem or song, and this format attempts to preserve that poetic structure.