That’s the word we taught our daughters to say when they lost at Candy Land.
Maybe around 2 years old when they could first maneuver those colored gingerbread men around that candy-covered game board, we taught them this massive word.
Mastering the vocabulary came difficult. They lisped out ‘congratulations’ and we’d smile over the cuteness of a tiny person tackling the syllables.
But more difficult than that, harder than the language itself, was the heart uprising at having to spill out “congratulations” to someone else.
Because we all want to win…all the time. And when someone else’s gingerbread man landed on that last rainbow square right at the candy castle, that wrecked little hearts in all their innate selfishness and self-centered ways.
Oh, how the wrestling match with our enemy pride begins so young and does it ever actually end? Will we ever slam that opponent down on that mat and claim victory over such a foe?
If Christmas is about anything, though, it’s about God coming low.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8 NIV).
“Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” that’s what Paul wrote.
Yet, still pride and envy destroy us, destroy our churches, our friendships, and our ministries because we scramble and shove for the spotlight, the glory and the prize.
We may no longer be counting the squares on a Candy Land board, and yet saying that word, ‘congratulations’ with genuine joy at another’s success may come difficult.
When their ministry takes off….
When they buy that huge new house….
When they book that dream vacation…
When their kids bring home that report card….
I marvel at John the Baptist.
Before Jesus came along preaching and healing, John gathered crowds by the river and baptized them into repentance and renewal. He was the long-awaited prophet, the voice crying out in the wilderness.
So, John’s followers didn’t appreciate the attention the upstart Jesus was stealing away from John’s long-term ministry. But John wasn’t bothered at all, saying, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30 NIV).
In that familiar old Christmas story, I see where this began.
I see how John learned young to step aside humbly and worship the One who is greater. I see how he didn’t strive for his own glory or stake his own claim to attention and praise.
His mama taught him.
Elizabeth was about six months pregnant with her own miracle baby when Mary came for a surprise visit.
For six months, Elizabeth treasured the joy of a son-to-be, a prophecy spoken over her very own baby. How she had longed for a child during those years of barrenness, and now she was truly expectant. And not just any baby. But the forerunner of the Messiah in her very own womb.
Yet, when Mary walked into Elizabeth’s house unexpectedly, Elizabeth didn’t give way to jealousy or territorial cattyness. She didn’t rush to tell her own story or pridefully demand any attention for herself
She stepped aside.
She extended a joyful and genuine ‘Congratulations’ to the young woman before her.
And she worshiped.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:41-45 NIV).
Pride chains us down to a captivity of our own creation.
It’s freeing, though, to look past our own lives and choose instead to reach out to others.
It’s freeing to rejoice with those who rejoice.
It’s freeing to listen more than we talk.
It’s the freedom of making this life less about us and all about Him and serving others.
And the lesson begins here at Christmas as Elizabeth humbly congratulates and blesses the teenage girl before her.
As Elizabeth’s own unborn son becomes the first person to worship the still unborn Savior.
And as God Himself grew within the confines of a womb, our God of light couched for a time in darkness waiting to be born.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now! To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2013 Heather King