Which is the more positive and which the more negative word, ‘up’ or ‘down’? Personally, I think ‘down’ has many negative associations, we say, “ I’m down on my luck, on a downer, downtrodden, down in the dumps or even down and out”. How often, though, do we find that the life and ministry of Jesus turns the normal upside down! The great celebration of this time of year is the remarkable fact that God came down. We rejoice with the shepherds who heard great news that the King had arrived, and that it would be wonderful news to all mankind. But, within the season of advent, we also look forward to another event. The fact that whatever goes up must come down, and Jesus, having returned to heaven after His death, promised to come down again. This time it will be at the end of all things and to bring salvation to all those who call Him Lord.
Our God loves relationship. From the beginning He would come down and walk with Adam and Eve. But He also comes down in response to our suffering. We can look back to God’s people, the Israelites, who were slaves in Egypt and suffering under the weight of abuse and captivity. They cried out to God in their pain and desperation. God heard and said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them’ (Exodus 3:7-8).
God is love. His nature is to restore, to repair, and to bring new life where death has been. His compassion moves Him to respond for all people. But that was then. What about now, and what about us? Over the years, many faithful worshippers, from kings to servants, and all manner of God’s people, cried out to God. King David loved the Lord dearly and worshipped Him whole-heartedly. He faced tough times and won great victories, but he also made terrible mistakes and sinned. His prayer was often, ‘Lord open the heavens and come down!’ (Psalm 144:5). Isaiah saw the terrible state of things in his time and had the same plea before God, ‘Oh that you would burst the heavens and come down’ (Isaiah 64:1).
The result, after many years of people thinking when, or how, or if, God had even heard their cries, God responded in the most emphatic way possible. He came down to earth, not just as God, but as fully man to be born of Mary, God as human, leaving the glorious heights to come and dwell down among us. John’s gospel records why He did: ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only son’. (John 3:16). Because He loved us, He gave to us the very best He could – His all.
Once more God hears mankind’s cry. He knows what is required and He knows the plans and purposes that need to be worked out, but in His perfect timing. But never doubt, God doesn’t just hear but responds. That’s not so say that it is at our command, though, sadly, when Jesus was hung on a tree dying, they taunted Him. ‘If you are God son, come down’. We know full well He could have done that. I suspect much inside of Him wanted to, but that was not in the Father’s plan. Indeed, He had already come down in fulfilment of the Father’s plan. But God is love shown in Jesus and the bible explains, ‘This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters’ (1 John 3:16). Wow, what a challenge about the way we serve one another! What does ‘God coming down’, ‘Emanuel God with us’ mean to your life and relationship with Jesus? The psalmist responds by saying, ‘Come let us worship and bow down let us kneel before the Lord our maker’(Psalm 95:6).
This Christmas, this advent, as we remember His coming down but also His imminent return, are we prepared to bow down? God’s compassion, His love, is always followed by appropriate, selfless action. As I’ve watched the adverts this Christmas suggesting ‘I deserve this’ or ‘I should treat myself to this or that’, I’m convicted that all I have is because He came down, that Jesus bowed down in death to raise me up in life. I can celebrate this Christmas because of the Hope He has given the world. Come and worship and bow down. Oh, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for hearing my cry, and for sending the best You had to save me from myself and the mess I was in. This Christmas, Lord, help me to look out past myself and instead to those You ask me to lay down my life for, as I try to follow Your beautiful example of unconditional love. Amen.
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