Christmas: The Descent of God
Friday Dec 21st, 2012
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14a).
As you celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus, consider the implications of what was going on there in Bethlehem. The heavens shook with the implications of what our world now trivializes. Even we as Christians don’t give full weight to what happened there. Here are three Christmas facts to help us focus on the reality of what happened so long ago.
CHRISTMAS FACT #1
There is no one like our God.
Psalm 113:4-6 describes the uniqueness of God: “The LORD is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is like the LORD our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?”
If you really think about it, we can’t even imagine how incredible God is. Out of NOTHING, He brought all that exists into reality. Doing so did not affect His existence at all. It did not make Him greater than who He already was. It did not take one speck of perfection away from Him. It did not make Him less than who He already was. “Who is like the Lord our God?” NO ONE AND NOTHING! The Creator of the universe, the only true God, is far above all that exists.
Bible scholars call this transcendence or the “other-ness” of God. He is beyond, over, above, other than, and apart from all of the universe. The Psalmist describes this as God enthroned on high and having to stoop down to look at the heavens and earth. If He has to stoop down to look at the universe, then all of our existence is absolutely nothing when we consider who our God is.
If there is no one like our God and He is so incredibly unique, it almost seems that He would be distant and removed from us – that we could never have any hope of knowing God or of finding His favor. A God who is totally unique, exalted, and “other” would have no use for human beings. Why would He even bother with us? After all, even the best of us is far from perfect. We all sin and fall far short of God’s perfection (Romans 3:10, 23). Why would God care about us?
That is the conclusion most religions of the world, and even many Christians, come to. That because God is so great, He really doesn’t want to be bothered by people. So, people think, it is up to us to get God’s attention and do things to make him happy with us. They think, “If I only follow all of God’s rules, or be a better person, or live the right way, THEN God will notice me and give me a chance.”
That might be the conclusion you reach if you only consider Christmas fact #1. But the wonder and glory of our God is that He doesn’t stop there.
CHRISTMAS FACT #2
This incredible God entered his own creation as a baby.
God would be distant and removed from us if He was not a loving God. But right from the very beginning of the universe, when God created everything, He not only stooped down to look at His creation (Psalm 113:6), He also walked within it, alongside the very first humans (Genesis 1-3). When they disobeyed, He still loved them and provided the way for them to still follow Him.
Through all of ancient history (the Old Testament of the Bible), God was the one who loved people even though they rebelled against Him (Isaiah 40:21-31; Hosea 11:1-11). God was the one who initiated a relationship between Himself and people. He called Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He brought Moses back to His people to deliver them from slavery in Egypt. He provided a system of sacrifices to remind Israel that it was through God alone that they could be delivered from their sins. The first half of the Bible shouts the fact that God is not only wholly other and exalted above all of creation, but He is also immanent or close to His creation. He is deeply involved and everything is “at hand” for Him (Psalm 139:7-10).
As we turn to the New Testament, not only does God come close to His creation and walk among what He has made, He actually takes on a human existence in the person of God the Son. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believe in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 1 describes how God gave His Son:
“In the beginning was the Word [a term for God the Son, Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. . . . The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . No one has seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (John 1:1-3, 14, 18).
The wonderful truth we celebrate at Christmas is not just that a Savior was born, but that God Himself is our Savior who was born. The church throughout history has stood firm even in the face of persecution to proclaim that Jesus is both God and man – deity and humanity in one person. The incredible God who created the universe Himself entered His creation as a baby.
CHRISTMAS FACT #3
God entered creation so that creation might be with Him.
So we come to the purpose of God entering creation through the birth of Jesus. The glorious Creator so greatly loved the people He had made that nothing would stop Him from rescuing His creation from eternal death and suffering. That is our destiny apart from God. Because of sin in our world and in ourselves, what God has created is destined for God’s wrath. But God entered creation in order to save us from that destiny. By becoming human, God’s Son Jesus could suffer and die in our place, taking all of God’s wrath on Himself, taking all the punishment that our sin deserves upon Himself (Hebrews 9:24-28; Romans 3:21-26; 5:6-11).
John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Ephesians 2 tells us, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. . . . For through him [Jesus] we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. . . . And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:4-5, 18, 22).
The purpose of Christmas, the birth of Christ Jesus, was to make a way for each of us to spend eternity in the presence of God. And that presence of God starts the moment we put our faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9; John 1:12). When we receive Jesus as our Savior, we begin a relationship with God that lasts forever. We become a dwelling place in which God lives. The transcendent, incredible God lives with us and we can grow to know Him deeply.
It starts with faith in Jesus and grows through faith in Jesus on a daily basis. My Christmas prayer is that you will follow Jesus in daily trust. Trust him for life and trust him with your life.