In Isaiah 64:1 Isaiah prayed to the Lord, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down.” In the manger in Bethlehem on that first Christmas, God did. It is for us to believe that in Jesus, God has indeed come down to us.
“Well, that’s fine,” some might say, “but I’ve heard it all before. But what I really want is for the cancer to be gone now; to get that job in what I have been trained for so I can get out of debt now; to be reconciled to my loved one now; for the pain to go away now,” etc. God certainly wants us to bring all those concerns to him. And it is difficult to understand what God is and is not doing in our world and in our lives right now. There remains much to pray for, much to suffer, and much to wonder about.
But we are given Jesus, God Himself who did come down from heaven to earth, as a baby. Jesus, who lived a life like we are living, problems and all, and then died a death like we must die. But then Jesus rose from the dead and gave us the promise that we too will rise from the dead, if we believe in Him. In the Christmas story, God himself does come down to us, and in that story is the promise of eternal life.
That promise, when believed and taken to heart, gives us a larger perspective that changes everything. It is the promise of a time and place where there will be no more tears or pain. It is the promise of a time and place where all relationships will be healed and we will be at peace. It is the promise that even if the cancer gets the last word ‘here,’ it does not get the last word ‘there,’ because we can say with Paul in Romans, “whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” Christmas changes everything.
This is not to make light of our day to day problems right now—some of which God takes away from us and some of which he does not. But with this eternal perspective we can say as it says in the Bible, “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us.” We need that perspective. We need to see all things in the context of eternity.
Children have a much smaller perspective than adults. They will have great anxiety about things that seem insignificant to their parents and other adults– a toy that breaks, or a broken arm during summer vacation, or not getting invited to a birthday party that everyone else is going to, or striking out in the big game, or not being able to afford clothes with the right kind of label. These can be huge matters to a child. “That’s okay,” parents tell them, “it’s not the end of the world; and trust me, someday you’ll forget all about this.” From past experience, adults have a larger, lifelong perspective. They know that broken arms heal, friends come and go, and even favorite toys are soon outgrown and forgotten. They know that time passes, life goes on, and what seems to the child like big problems, are not really so big and bad after all. They also know that those painful bumps and bruises are a necessary part of growing up. The struggles they endure prepare them to be better and wiser and stronger. Adults tell children all this, and adults are right. They have a larger perspective on life that gives them that wisdom. But if you have ever had such a conversation with a child, you know how hard it is for children to understand, and to see things from that larger perspective.
In the same way, adults get anxious about other bigger, more unmanageable, and more long-lasting problems– things like debilitating illness, disappointed hopes and dreams that will never happen, old age, and death. But God, in the Bible, opens our eyes to an even larger perspective, in much the same way. “Trust me,” God says, “It is not so bad, and it will one day be better.” Even if it is the end of the world for you, that’s not a problem for God, who has another place prepared for us. Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid. Believe in me and trust me. I have gone on ahead to prepare a place for you.”
One morning many years ago, Tony woke up and saw in the mirror the biggest pimple of his life, right at the end of his nose, and right in time for the prom, for which he had his dream date. This is the sort of thing you see on television commercials. Well, it really happened to Tony, and he was quite sure that was the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone. He was in despair and inconsolable. But now, whenever that record-breaking pimple is remembered, there is great laughter by all, even him. He now has a larger perspective on such problems.
When we get to heaven, I don’t think we will be laughing about cancer and strokes and heart attacks and unemployment and depression and dementia. But we will certainly view them much differently from that larger perspective.
It might be like a married couple talking about their 65 years of married life. They faced many problems together over all those years: Getting married and buying a business in the same year, constant financial pressure for years as they struggled to make ends meet, their first child in and out of the hospital eight times before he was a year old, raising four children of their own and two foster children, caring for their elderly parents, arguments about everything under the sun, the wife’s cancer which was cured, and then a stroke which left her in a wheel chair with her husband as her caregiver for the last 15 years, and so forth. We can all make our own long list. But as this couple now looks back now, it is with a peaceful contentment. Many of those struggles and battles are behind them; and they can look back with a sense of quiet satisfaction, and even some pleasure, at all those things that at one time looked so sad and insurmountable. Someone once said, “What was difficult to endure, can be sweet to remember.” Things look much different from the perspective of being 86 years old, than when you are 36 years old.
Things will look infinitely different from our home in heaven. Then we will understand more fully what it means that Jesus came down to be with us, and promised to bring us back with him to that heaven. May you all know and believe in the joy of the Christ Child.
John 14:1-3 — (Jesus said), “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
Revelation 21:4 — (God) will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
Romans 8:18 — I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Away in a Manger, (verse three):
Be near us, Lord Jesus, we ask thee to stay,
Close by us forever and love us we pray;
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And take us to heaven to live with thee there.