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The Door of Humility

23 Dec Spiritual Formation | Comments Off on The Door of Humility
The Door of Humility

The Wall and the Door

It was a beautiful morning in late May as we worked our way through the streets of Jerusalem. For most of our students there was not a care to be had. For myself and my co-leader, we understood the gravity of what we were about to experience. All of sudden off in the distance we could see the wall.

Not just any wall, but rather the wall which separates Israel from the West Bank. Our destination for the day was the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which meant we would be crossing through the wall into the West Bank. As we approached the check point, four Israeli soldiers immediately circled our bus. The bus doors open and an IDF solider dressed in military fatigues walked up the front staircase and scanned our group. At the same time, another soldier came up from a stairwell in the back.

For many on the bus, this was a dramatic first – the first time sitting beside a person with a loaded machine gun, the first time being question by the Israeli IDF, and perhaps most importantly, the first many of them had personally experienced the reality of the wall. It was emotional to say the least.


As we passed through the wall, it became evident that our realty had just changed. The cluttered streets and worn down buildings of the West Bank stood in stark contrast to the clean lines and bright colors of modern Israel. This was the path to the Nativity. Not long after passing through the wall, we made our way to the Church of the Nativity, the site traditionally marked as the place where Jesus was born in a humble cave.

The bus arrived and pulled into a courtyard called “Manger Square.” It was bustling and alive with people, vendors selling trinkets and treats. The air was filled with lots of smells and lots of confusion. In the middle of this madness, I went into leader mode and started strategizing for the best way to quickly lead fifty wandering college students into the church.

I turned to our guide and asked, “Where is the door?

He promptly pointed to a small opening and said, “You mean, the Door of Humility.”


Preparing to Celebrate

Reflecting back on that moment now years later, I can recall looking at the small door. The humble stone entrance forced those who entered to stoop low and bow their heads before entering. I can easily remember what was starting to take place in my soul…

This wasn’t just another artifact, church or relic to see. This wasn’t another tourist stop. Rather, to enter into this place required preparation. For us as a group of American pilgrims, it required preparation in leaving our comfortable home in the states, preparation in passing through the wall into Palestinian territories, preparation in humbling ourselves through stooping low to enter this 1500 year old church, preparation in making sure our clothing reflected the appropriate cultural conventions of modesty that this Holy location required.

Long story short, you don’t celebrate the coming of “The Messiah” without preparing. As I entered through the Door of Humility I was struck by the many new and important ways in which I needed to prepare my heart for the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

The following are three keys to preparing for celebration:


Student Ministries and family life can become exceptionally busy environments during the holiday season – maybe even the busiest of the year. Family events, Student Ministry Christmas parties, church wide outreach indicatives’, passions plays, Christmas caroling, etc… though all good, the simple velocity of each demand can subtly rob us of what’s best.

To enter the Church of the Nativity, you couldn’t rush it. You stood in line, you waited with others, you prepared your soul, and then finally when the time was right, you slowly kneeled to enter. When we slow, we participate in the practice of being present in the moment. In that moment, our students and our church have the opportunity to experience God in a particular time and space.

Community and Meals

Preparing to celebrate contains a personal element as well as a corporate piece, and while we may choose to celebrate individually, the best celebrations are often experienced with those you deeply love and trust. In preparation for celebrating “the coming Messiah”, meals can provide a great opportunity to slow, savor, and share presence with others. For many students in your ministries, you are their family. You and your adult leaders may be the only individuals they trust. What would it look like if the only thing your student ministry did this December, was to have intentional meals planned in homes, where the body of Christ experienced His presence and His goodness around a table?


Finally, in our increasingly digital global society, life feels like anything but simple. Our days are often filled with adding one more thing (or maybe 50 more things). The more we add, the more we require ourselves to pay attention to, respond to, update. Subtly, we begin to believe (or at least live out of) a principle that “More must be better.” If it’s available, I must have it. And culturally, the Christmas Season bombards us with this message again and again. It’s no wonder we feel rushed and distracted.

Simplicity is a practice where we cultivate the great art of letting go. In letting go, we loosen our attachments to owning, having and controlling. When we practice simplicity with our students, freedom is experienced and in turn we find ourselves becoming deeply generous.

I wasn’t quite ready that hot summer day in Bethlehem to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Yet, as I left the Church of the Nativity, the way in which I think about preparing to celebrate changed forever.

How are you preparing for the coming Celebration of the birth of The Messiah?


Rick Rhoads
Professor of Student Min at Lancaster Bible College
Rick is the Director of the Student Ministry Majors at Lancaster Bible College. He has served as an Assistant Professor in Student Ministry at LBC for the past 7 years. Over the past 18 years, he has served in various Student Ministry roles at Lebanon Valley YFC, LCBC, Calvary Bible Church, and Riverbend Community Church. Rick, his wife Naomi, and their two children Grace and Eli live East Petersburg, PA.