Scott Jones – Gilbert Campus Pastor
Throughout human history there have been events that triggered a shift in the way the world works. These events changed the way human beings would view themselves and the world that they lived in. And each of these events began with one moment, where one person made one choice that changed everything. An African American woman chose to keep her seat and the Civil Rights movement was born. And everything changed. An astronomer championed the view that the sun not the earth was the center of the universe. And everything changed. A priest nailed his 95 Theses to the door of All Saints Church and it sparked the Protestant Revolution. And everything changed.
And each of these people had a different choice they could have made¾a choice to go with the flow, to embrace the status quo, to leave changing things to someone else on another day, in another time. But they didn’t. In one moment they decided to act out of conviction, to stand for justice, to reveal truth. And that one moment altered the trajectory of not only that person’s life but also millions of others who would be affected by their courage.
And when we come to the Christmas Story, there are similar moments where people were faced with decisions about the plan of God. And what they did with that moment has shaped not only the story itself but the world that we live in. Now there’s a moment that I guess you could say triggered everything. Do you ever wonder how all this got started, how the actual events of the Christmas story got put into play? I mean, we’ve got the narrative of the angel Gabriel coming to Mary and Joseph, story of shepherds watching their flocks at night and the birth of the baby
But at what point did this master plan get put into play? To see it, we’ve to go way back to the beginning. The writer John informs us.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:1-2
John begins his version of the Christmas Story by establishing that in the beginning of all things there was a something known as the “Word.” Before the universe came into existence, before there we’re angels or any created thing there was the Word. The Word was and is eternal. There was never a time when the Word did not exist. But what is meant by “Word?” In the Hebrew Scripture, “word” is connected with God’s powerful activity when he created things, revealed something about himself, or delivered people. God’s “word” is how he expresses himself.
But John has done something different here. He has assigned personality to the Word. And this Person enjoys a unique relationship with God. He is with God, meaning, before there was anything else, there was this Person, the Word, and God the Father and the Spirit who had a special relationship to one another. This person, this Word is none other than God Almighty. He is the Creator. He is the Sustainer. That’s what makes this moment so significant.
So imagine this. One day before the world began, God (Father, the Word & Holy Spirit) gathered the angels and told them about an idea. They said, “We’re going to create something.” And the angels said, “What?” God said, “The human race.” “What’s a human race?” “Well, it’s a community of people very different from you. They will be born, they’ll have freedom to choose, they’ll have capacity for great good but also capacity for great evil. After we create the first two, all others will come from them. They will start with a little thing called a ‘baby.’ It will be totally dependent and need care 24/7. At age 2 it will begin to talk and say words like ‘No’ and ‘Mine’ and it will bite other 2-year-olds.”
The angels are starting to kind of look at each other hoping not to catch God’s eye. He continues, “As they grow a little older they become adolescents and their ears and eyes will become attached to electronic devices. And their language evolves to include phrases like ‘Whatever!’ And they’ll keep growing and become teenagers and I’m thinking of giving them this thing called ‘puberty’ which will make them act like they are from another planet for several years. And they will withdraw and become very self-focused. And finally they will become ‘adults’ where they’ll become solidified in their independence. And all the fears and insecurities they have picked up along the way will drive them away from me.” And then one bold angel took the risk to ask, “Well then how will they ever be brought back to you?”
And all of heaven was silent for what seemed like an eternity. And then, in one moment, the Son of God said, “I’ll do it. I’ll go. I’ll leave the glory of this place, the beauty of this perfect community. I’ll humble myself and become one of them. I will dwell among them, live a perfect life, and offer myself as a sacrifice to pay for their sin so they can be brought back into harmony with us and one day spend eternity with us in renewed heaven and earth where life will be as it was always meant to be. And in that moment everything changed! The space-time continuum was altered forever.
There was a study where students at Harvard were asked, “If prices were the same, which option would you choose?“ Option A: you make $50,000 per year and everybody else makes $25,000 per year. Option B: You make $100,000 per year, but everybody else makes $200,000 per year. Which option do you think the majority of Harvard students chose?
Option A. That’s the human heart. A majority of us are willing to take a 50% pay cut in order to feel superior to other people. Not Jesus. Oh, he took a pay cut. But not elevate himself above others. Just the opposite. He could have made a different choice in heaven. Could’ve said, “Hey, I’m the Creator. I’m the Word. I’m God. I’m not going anywhere!” No it was that attitude that he came to rescue us from.
You see, there’s something dark in each of us that makes the world a dark place. We don’t want to think of that. We want to think darkness is created by pedophiles, murderers and drug dealers. But every time I think I’m better than you; I put out a little bit of darkness. Every time I manipulate to get my way; I put out a little bit of darkness. Every time I withdraw to punish my wife; I put out a little bit of darkness. Every time I speak words of hurt; I put out a little bit of darkness. Every time I refuse to let the jerk in who drove down the emergency lane and now wants to get in front of me; I put out a little bit of darkness. And in eternity past, the Son of God saw a little bit of darkness in all of us and that’s why he made the choice that he made.
The One who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. John 1:9-10
And he knew this would be the case – that the very people he would come for would look past him, reject him and ultimately crucify him. And knowing that, he still decided to leave heaven. Knowing what it would cost, he still committed to come. Philippians 2 describes that moment.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.
The word translated “grasped” carries the idea of “taking advantage“ of something. Jesus was 100% God. But before there was Jesus of Nazareth, there was the Second person of the Trinity, the Word, God the Son. But the Son didn’t hold so tightly to his divinity that it kept him from joining humanity. He didn’t let his position get in the way of serving others.
This is very foreign to most of us. We work our entire lives to get to the top. And whatever level of power or status we achieve, we have learned to exploit it to our advantage not others. Why? Because this is the way the world works. But in a moment in eternity past, the Son/the Word flipped that upside down and everything changed.
We talk a lot about Jesus humbling himself on earth but the truth is, he first humbled himself in heaven. That was the bigger decision.
And that’s the beauty, the wonder of the Christmas Story. It shows us something about God that we would never figure out on our own. It’s not intuitive, this stepping down from heaven to earth. Not the movement one expects from a God. I mean we figure, God stays up there; we stay down here. That’s just the way that works. But the moment the Son humbled himself in heaven, everything changed. The writer John framed it this way.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. John 1:14
And that’s the story of Christmas. Because the problems of the world, the problems of humanity, the problem of my heart and yours – the darkness that it lets out can never be changed by spankings or punishment, or any external forces or influence. It has to come from within. Only God can change a human heart.
And so in one moment the Eternal Son decided to leave heaven and come to earth and become Jesus of Nazareth so he could know our pain, feel our struggle, and die our death. That was the moment that changed everything!