Jesus, Born a Servant


Editor’s note: As we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas, enjoy these two short but powerful devotions on the beauty of the Incarnation from Eugene Peterson, beloved pastor and translator of the Message Bible. The 365-day devotional God’s Message for Each Day gathers Peterson’s best-loved, most powerful writing into a daily invitation to grow closer to God — an easy, actionable way to build a daily devotional reading routine.


The Servant

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights.
— Isaiah 42:1, NRSV

The servant role was completed in Jesus. Though there were auspicious signs that preceded and accompanied His birth, preparing the world for the majestic and kingly, the birth of Jesus itself was of the humblest peasant parentage, in an unimportant town, and in the roughest of buildings. He made a career of rejecting marks of status or privilege: He touched lepers, washed the feet of His disciples, befriended little children, encouraged women to join His entourage, and, finally, submitted to crucifixion by a foreign power. Everything about Jesus spoke of servitude.


Emptied and Filled

Christ Jesus… emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.
— Philippians 2:5-7, NRSV

St. Paul’s description of Jesus, “emptied himself,” is often cited as the center point in the work of Incarnation, the making of our salvation. Emptying is prelude to filling. The Son of God empties Himself of prerogative, of divine rights, of status and reputation, in order to be the one whom God uses to fill up creation and creatures with the glory of salvation. A bucket, no matter what wonderful things it contains, is of no use for the next task at hand until it is emptied.

Excerpted with permission from God’s Message for Each Day by Eugene Peterson, copyright Eugene Peterson.

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Your Turn

How does Jesus’ example of servitude inspire you today? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Eugene Peterson

Eugene H. Peterson, translator of The Message Bible (17 million sold), authored more than 30 books, including the spiritual classics A Long Obedience in the Same Direction and Run with the Horses. He earned his BA in Philosophy from Seattle Pacific University, his STB from New York Theological Seminary, and his MA in Semitic Languages from John Hopkins University. He also held several honorary doctoral degrees. In 1962, Peterson was founding pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Bel Air, Maryland, where he and his wife, Jan, served for 29 years before retiring in 1991. Peterson held the title of professor emeritus of spiritual theology at Regent College, British Columbia, from 1998 until his death in 2018.

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