He Held the Stars in Place

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Pastor, Louisville, Kentucky

No Christmas story will ever surpass the original.

Each December, we’re reintroduced to the classic movies: It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, The Polar Express, Elf, The Santa Clause, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Carol, White Christmas. In the midst of our chaotic, frenzied, and confused world, they can be a welcome distraction. But they all fall so far short of the greatest story: God himself born as human to save us. As J.I. Packer puts it, “Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the incarnation.”

In a similar way, we might get a sentimental feeling when we hear “voices singing ‘Let’s be jolly!’” but nothing will comfort and encourage us more than singing about the Word-made-flesh. It’s a reality we will never fully plumb, not even in a million carols. Words fail us. The mystery is too great.

But it’s worth trying.

Unexpected Arrival

A few years ago, I co-wrote a song with my good friend, Jason Hansen, that attempted to remind us why “nothing in fiction is so fantastic” as the incarnation. We called it “God Made Low.”

Prophets promised long ago a King would come to bring us hope
And now a virgin bears a son, the time to save the world has come

“The infinite became an infant. The all-knowing One became a babbling baby.”

Even though few noticed his birth, Jesus didn’t appear without warning. His coming was foretold centuries before he came. He just wasn’t the king we expected. He entered our world through a virgin whose very body was fashioned by the baby she was about to deliver. Jesus came not as the king we would have thought — in splendor, glory, and triumph — but as a helpless babe, sustained and nourished by an exhausted teenage girl.

Just at the right time.

Hope Had Come

Humble shepherds run in haste to see the One the angels praised
In cattle stall they find a girl who holds the hope of all the world

The shepherds were understandably rattled by what they heard and saw the night Jesus was born — “sore afraid,” as the King James puts it (Luke 2:9 KJV). It would be the first and last time they’d see angels singing in the star-filled sky. But the glory of that sight would soon be surpassed by seeing the Son of God “wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).

In the midst of barn animals, the noxious filth of a stable, and a world unaware that hope had burst the bonds of our despair (Psalm 107:14), the Savior of the world had come.

More Than with Us

Emmanuel has come to us, the Christ is born, Hallelujah!
Our God made low to raise us up, Emmanuel has come to us

What did it mean for God to “come to us”? How far did he have to go? If you’ve ever traveled to a foreign country, you know what it’s like to encounter a new language, new landscapes, new customs, new money, and a new culture. You feel out of place. What must God’s Son have felt like?

“It’s a reality we will never fully plumb, not even in a million carols.”

The infinite became an infant. The all-knowing One became a babbling baby. As one song puts it, “The author climbed inside the page.” God came to us because we never would have come to him. We never could have come to him. But God didn’t just come to us. He became one of us. Jesus was not only Emmanuel, “God with us.” He was us.

God was made low. So he could raise us up to eternal life and infinite joys.

Sleeping and Sovereign

As he sleeps upon the hay he holds the moon and stars in place
Though born an infant, he remains the sovereign God of endless days

When Jesus became a baby, he lost nothing of his God-ness. He was truly God and truly man, in one person. Even as he slept soundly as human, he was holding the universe together as God (Colossians 1:17). It’s a source of unending wonder that the God who brought the universe into being clothed himself in our skin, or more precisely, added human nature to his deity.

God is great not merely because he is sovereign and exalted above his creation, but because in unspeakable humility, he became a part of it.

Every Promise Fullilled

For all our sins one day he’ll die to make us sons of God on high
Let every heart prepare him room, the promises have all come true

For centuries people have tried to remake Christmas into a charming children’s tale that inspires us to be kinder. More peaceful. More loving. As John Lennon put it, “War is over if you want it.” Christmas actually says the opposite. It confronts us with the brutal fact that we can never be kind, peaceful, and loving. We were given paradise and chose anarchy. War — both in our world and in our hearts — will never be over unless God acts.

And he did. In the early chapters of the Bible, God promised that the head of the serpent would be crushed by the future offspring of Eve (Genesis 3:15). He told a wandering Abraham that all the families of the earth would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:3). Later, he promised King David that the throne of his kingdom would be established forever (2 Samuel 7:16). And all this would come to pass because God’s suffering servant would be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5).

“Even as he slept soundly, he was holding the universe together.”

These — and a thousand other promises — came true that first Christmas. And they assure us that God will keep every precious promise he’s given us in his word. He will save anyone who calls on the name of Jesus Christ (Romans 10:13). He will make sure, in his perfect time, that we look like his Son (Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:2). He will cause all things in our lives to work together for good (Romans 8:28). And one day he will wipe away every tear from our eyes, death will be no more, and we will see his face (Revelation 21:4; 22:4).

This Christmas, don’t let the world’s misunderstanding of Christmas keep you from seeing and treasuring the greatest of all realities: God has been made low to bring us up. Emmanuel has come to be with us. The promises have all come true.