Christianity is ultimately the story of one Grand Miracle. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Almighty God, the Eternal and Unchanging One, entering the world of change and turning, and taking on human nature for us and our salvation. It is the story of descent and re-ascent, of the highest descending to the lowest, redeeming fallen man, and then returning in triumph to glory.
Christmas and Easter are the two great turns in that story. Christmas marks the descent, the coming down; Easter marks the rising, the return to glory. And so let us mark the movement of Christmas, the Christmas pattern. The highest descends to the lowest. God becomes man, born of woman. And not just any woman–a young peasant girl from the backwater town of Nazareth. The highest descends to the lowest and is born in the little town of Bethlehem, small among the clans of Judah.
That’s why our Christmas songs are so filled with angels. At the first Christmas, the angels were the ones who really got it. They led the way. They set the tone. The humans in the story follow the angelic lead. The emotions of those on earth are tied to what is happening in the heavens. The magi rejoice with great joy when they see the star. The shepherds glorify and praise God because of what they had seen and heard from the angels.
That’s why angels are so prominent in our Christmas carols. Angels We Have Heard on High. Hark the Herald Angels Sing. The First Noel. O Holy Night. O Come All Ye Faithful. Angels from the Realm of Glory. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen. What Child Is This? It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. Ding Dong Merrily on High (which has been on repeat at the Rigney house the last few days).
We sing what they sang: “Glory to God in the highest.” Sometimes we do it in Latin–Gloria, in excelsis deo. Christmas is about the Highest descending to the lowest, bringing joy and triumph with him. Thirty years before Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, we witness what it means to say, “hallowed by your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The highest descends to the lowest.
So as you celebrate the Christmas season into the new year: remember the Christmas pattern. The highest descends to the lowest. Join the angels in their joy. Join the triumph of the skies and press it into the mundane. The highest descends to the lowest, and the blessing flows far as the curse is found. So sing with the angels, not only at church in your Sunday best, but at home in the cleanup, when you’re taking out the trash, when you’re doing the dishes, in the monotonous mundane, in the small and insignificant.
Follow the Christmas pattern and sing, “Glory to God in the lowest.”
Joe Rigney, Ph.D.
Bethlehem College and Seminary
- Pray that as we enter a new year that we would remember to rejoice in the mundane of our lives, joining the angels in their joy.
- Please pray that the Lord would be generous to us through the saints as the year ends tomorrow and fully fund the serious joy scholarships that allow our students and their teachers to study our God who came to dwell among us.
- Pray that we all would be a joyful people who shine the light of Christ wherever we go.
- Pray that our students and faculty would enjoy a restful Christmas break and return in January ready for the spring semester.