It's Christmastime! Full fir trees laced in snowflakes and festively wrapped packages tied up with gilded bows. Every year at this time, we as Christians struggle to look past the fuzzy faced frivolity and glitter of commercialism to capture a fresh perspective on the birth of Christ.
My meditation this year comes from Hebrews 2:9: "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God, he might taste death for everyone."
The theologians call it "condescension" -- that He, through whom all things were called into being, would allow himself to take on this lower, created form, to die and help those who could never fully comprehend what he had done.
Christ shed His royal robes of strength and glory to take on the faded garment of mortal flesh and in doing so, submitted Himself to become like us, a little lower than the Angels. And perhaps the most amazing part is that in this unimaginable condescension, He never responded condescendingly toward us. Even when we spit on him, and reject Him, and dishonor Him with all our unappreciative ways. Even when we respond to Him as if He owes us a better life than we have now. Still, he does not act condescendingly toward us, only responds in love. So why is it so hard for us to condescend without being condescending?
Why is it so difficult to subject ourselves to the undesirables of this world and reach out in love, regardless of the way they respond toward our efforts?
This Christmas season I witnessed a very interesting act of condescension when beautifully handcrafted sweaters, mufflers, and hats were presented to a group of terribly impoverished people. In this village, many of the homes do not have running water and heat comes from the wood burning stove. It is a hard life, and those who donated the cold weather gear sought to bring warmth and comfort -- meeting the needs of these people by giving them their best.
When the gifts were presented, a few precious people glowed with appreciation. But the vast majority of the village took one look and turned their noses up in the air, mumbling, "csunya," that is, "ugly." They left, having rejected the gift.
I must admit, my personal reaction was to become condescending. "Well then, let them freeze this winter!" was the first thing to come to mind. But later I read this passage and recalled He who "was willing to become a little lower than the angels." How often have I responded to Christ's truly loving condescension, with the attitude that "God owes me..."(fill in the blank). God owes me happiness. God owes me success. God owes me kids (smart ones) or a husband (a handsome one). etc... etc...
To understand his condescension, we must start by understanding what God truly owes us. God owes me Hell. God owes me eternal damnation. God owes me misery in my own sin. But God condescends to me with His unconditional love, sacrifice, death and resurrection. It is only when we understand this reality that we can truly begin to understand grace.
So with this in mind, let's all try to respond to this holiday season -- not like spoiled children haranguing their Father with "I want this. I want that! Gi'me, Gi'me, Gi'me!" Instead, let's take a moment a remember who we are and who He is -- and what He really owes us.
And as we ornament our trees with silver tinsel and top them with illuminated Angels, let us remember He who "was made a little lower than the angels," and condescended to our level
and maybe it will help us to surrender our condescending attitudes toward others and be willing to condescend in love.