A few years ago I realized that the classic Christmas carols not only sing about Jesus’ birth – they invite us to step right into the story for ourselves. They are written as though we are standing in the story in real-time. Angels We Have Heard On High invites us to, “come adore on bended knee Christ the Lord the newborn King,” as if it is happening right now. We are standing under a night sky where “the stars are brightly shining,” for “it is the night of the dear Savior’s birth,” in O Holy Night. And O Come O Come Emmanuel paints a picture of an awaiting Israel, God’s chosen people, “that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear,” before ringing out the good news, “Rejoice! Emmanuel has come!”
We are not just singing a song – we are caught up in a story.
I don’t know where you see yourself in this story, but I know where I am standing. I’m on that hill with the shepherds. The outcasts. The dirty ones. The least. I picture myself as the son of a man who told the stories of our ancestors, how they had known God as His special people, how He had miraculously delivered them numerous times over the generations, how our people had turned away from our God and walked into bondage and how He had promised to send a Savior. And how we all have been waiting in desperate hope ever since. I have heard the stories all my life and now as a grown man, I have a dim hope of anticipation for this Messiah as well.
I figure as a mere shepherd I will just hear about His coming in the news of the city, for a king usually makes his entrances in the middle of the town square for all to see. So I am shocked and overwhelmed when a blazing light breaks into my night sky right in front of me! And the triumphant voices of these heavenly beings of light happily tell us there’s good news waiting for us in Bethlehem. I am overwhelmed, but I pull myself off the ground to go with my partners to find the baby described to us. And as we make the trek to the City of David, I realize this is the One for whom we’ve longed for generation upon generation. And I’m going to behold Him: the Deliverer, the Savior of the world. I feel old, and I’ve been waiting and wondering for so long, I am not sure what I will say to this King.
I wrote the lyrics of this song, Down On This Ground, from this perspective:
Wise men came to seek You
Traveling across the snow
Following a star that led them
To a little One to offer their gold
Lowly shepherds in the winter
Tried to keep warm in the cold
Angels sang a song about You
And they ran to find You as they were told
Little Child, I’ve been looking for You
As I walk through this weary world
Now I come to this humble manger
To see Heaven come down on this ground
And on this silent night You’ll hear me singing
With the merry hearts of the awaiting
Wash me as white as that snow
And I’ll lift You up like that star
Refine my heart like that gold
And I will lay my life down on this ground
Little Child, I’ve been looking for you. We’ve all been waiting. Our hearts have been longing for a hope that shines brighter than the darkness around us, within us. We all have inside a desperate cry for salvation. And it’s as though the gift comes when we’re least expecting it. Like a sudden snow, God quietly stepped into our world.
He didn’t come wearing expensive robes riding on a white horse to the middle of the city to make His announcement to the rich and popular. He came as a baby, fragile and dependent. He was laid in animal feed grass, like where I sleep every night. I can see Him lifting His little hand through the dirt and flies to wonder at His own fingers. And I can tell that He is from God. It seems Heaven has come down on this dirty, broken ground to meet me. So my response is natural: I want to be clean on the inside like Him. I can’t get that way by myself, so I will lay my life down on this ground before Him. I don’t have anything to give Him, just my heart – but He can have my all, and I think He’ll take me. And that makes me want to worship Him, to lift Him up like the star shining brightly above us.
If you’ll step into the story, I think you’ll find yourself worshiping Him as well.
By James Mark Gulley