That was the question one of my teenager’s posed after our family Advent devotional a few days ago. Christmas is about God’s “condescension” to mankind. But since the word is used in almost exclusively negative ways these days, it’s not easily understood in its biblical context. A few minutes of explanation will yield a wealth of Advent blessing!
Today if we say someone is condescending, we mean they are haughty and patronizing. They make people around them feel small. But the incarnation is about God coming down to be with us in the form of His Son. The glorious eternal God became exceedingly little (a baby!) so He could be with us and lift us up to Himself.
This is the divine condescension.
It means to set aside one’s dignity and superiority and to assume a role of equality with one’s inferior. God knew that we in our sin and brokenness could never get to His high and lofty place. So He left the throne and came down, took upon Himself our humanity (incarnation) and became our suffering Servant. This is the glory of Christmas, the glory of the gospel, and yes, the glory of God and redeemed people.
Con-descend, “to come down…with”, is the ministry of Emmanuel, God with us.
His condescension does not make us feel small, but causes “the soul to feel its worth” (as the classic Christmas hymn states). So this Christmas season as you look at the many lowly manger scenes and crude cattle stalls, let them remind you of the glory of God’s coming all the way down to us, so that He could lift us all the way up to His throne in glory.
It’s actually a beautiful word, isn’t it? For sure, but only in its proper context.
When one sinner patronizes another, we feel the hypocrisy. But when God comes down to us in love, if we are able to see it for what it really is, we feel awe and find worship spontaneously arising in our hearts. Like the shepherds (and later the magi), we are inspired to humbly kneel and lay our treasures (and lives!) at His feet.
And just in case this holiday season finds you in a low place, a humble place, or a painful place, just remember that the baby Jesus was not found in a palace or nice hotel. There was no room for him there. He was found in the dark and lowly cattle stall. He still goes as low as He has to go to lift people who know their need of Him. Yes, that can be you and me this Christmas! Right now, I must stop writing and respond to the worship that’s rising in this heart of mine.
He is worthy of all praise and honor, this King who condescends to us!