Bending Toward Bethlehem

Sunday before the Nativity / Eve of the Nativity, December 24, 2023
Hebrews 11:9-10, 32-40; Matthew 1:1-15

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.

All things bend now toward Bethlehem.

From Nazareth, the righteous Joseph, the betrothed of the Virgin, comes to Bethlehem, the city of David his forefather, at the summons of Caesar Augustus, that he might be counted in the census. And with him, he brings his betrothed, the Virgin Mary, who is great with child.

From the East, Magi are journeying from their high towers on hills and mountains, where they watched the stars. And there they saw one great star shining in the East and leading them West, leading them down from their heights to the lowest place, to even a cave, to a manger upon which shines that star – and from which shines the Sun of Righteousness.

From Jerusalem, the thoughts of wicked Herod the false king, sitting on his high seat, bend toward Bethlehem, gnawing at him, infecting him with doubt and envy and fear.

From the heavens themselves, the holy ones of God, the innumerable armies of the Lord of Hosts, bend down toward shepherds keeping their flocks by night, directing them to Bethlehem, to find that manger.

And from across time, through many generations, from Adam, from Abraham, and from David, the royal line of Israel and indeed of humanity itself bends in a perfect arc toward that cave, toward that Virgin, toward that manger, toward that newborn Babe.

He is Christ, the Lord and God of all, and all creation has come to worship Him, every tribe and nation, every people and family of the earth, every speck of this vast creation that was created by Him and through Him and for Him. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

And He himself has bent down from the heavens – first secretly in the bright Nazareth spring nine months before but now openly here in the dark Bethlehem winter.

He Who existed before the ages as God has made a divine descent from the highest heavens, born of a Virgin, born under the Law, born into a backwater province of the Roman Empire, born into an unimportant and socially irrelevant family that the Romans did not even regard as citizens.

And yet in that manger is not just a descendant of David the King, not just the heir of the House of Israel, not just a king – but the King. He is King of kings, Lord of lords, God of gods, Commander of the angels, the Lord of Hosts Himself – and He has become flesh and dwelt among us.

So we can see the pattern: Here at the Nativity of Christ, all that was high has become low – wise men, kings, angels, and even – such a wonder! – God Himself.

How can God descend to such a depth, from heaven to a cave of the earth? From being the One Who feeds all humanity and indeed all creation, to being laid in a food trough for animals? From being the One Whose essence is untouchable to being wrapped in swaddling clothes?

And He shall descend even further, into the very depths of Hades.

We can but gaze in wonder.

Yet our wonder is expressed not only in astonishment but in worship. We also now bend toward Bethlehem. We also bend our minds and hearts and bodies toward the manger, toward a Baby, yes, but toward the God of all.

And there, as we who are already low, being made of dust, lower ourselves just a little further, we discover the secret of the Nativity of Christ, the secret of His whole life, finding its climax with the thunder-crack of His death and resurrection that shake the whole world, the secret indeed of the whole Christian story, the secret of human history.

And the secret is this: the Most High God, the very highest of all that is high, lowered Himself not for our astonishment – though we are astonished. The Exalted One lowered Himself so that we, the low ones, might be exalted.

He became what we are so that we might become like what He is.

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Rom. 11:33).

To Him be glory forever and ever, Amen.

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