The Medieval Greek fabulist, known to us as Aesop, is famous for his stories that are designed to communicate some moral. One of his lesser known fables is entitled, “The Fox and the Lion.” It is very short—just three lines—and it goes like this:
When first the Fox saw the Lion he was terribly frightened, and ran away and hid himself in the wood.
Next time however he came near the King of Beasts he stopped at a safe distance and watched him pass by.
The third time they came near one another the Fox went straight up to the Lion and passed the time of day with him, asking him how his family were, and when he should have the pleasure of seeing him again; then turning his tail, he parted from the Lion without much ceremony.
The moral of the story, we are told, is, “familiarity breeds contempt.” The lion, as the King of the Beasts, deserved to be regarded with reverence and awe by the fox. But the more familiar the fox became with the lion, the deeper he fell into disregarding him and failing to to take note of the significance of his position as King of the Beasts.
Familiarity can, and often does, breed contempt. It can happen to any of us.
As Christians we risk falling into this error with the Lord Himself. We can become so familiar with God and with the things of God that we lose the reverence and awe which ought to characterize our attitude toward Him.
Christmas provides many opportunities for us us to prove Aesop’s adage true. We hear about and talk about the birth of Jesus more at this time of year than any other. Parents speak of the birth of Jesus to their children. Special TV shows acknowledge His birth in various ways. Radio stations will play Christmas Carols that celebrate Jesus’ birth. In some ways it will become almost impossible NOT to think about the nativity of our Lord in the next 7 days.
In one sense that is a blessing of God—to have so many opportunities to be reminded of the birth of Jesus Christ. But with that familiarity—with that repeated exposure to the fact of His birth—can come a lessening of our appreciation of it.
In the hustle and bustle of this week take time to pause and reflect on the stunning reality that God has indeed has come to us. The Son of God became man. The Word became flesh.
Consider this brief reflection by J.I. Packer:
The Word was made flesh’ (John 1:14); God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. And there was no illusion of deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the incarnation.
Have a staggering Christmas!