All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”
I know a pastor who at Christmas time would hang a Christmas Tree upside down in his living room.
It was quite a sight to see. As I remember it, on the side of his living room would be a couple of pulleys with wire leading to the base of the Christmas tree, holding the tree from the ceiling upside down. The tree was decorated. Then, at the bottom of the tree was a manger with the baby Jesus, mother Mary and Joseph. If I remember correctly, there was a spotlight highlighting this small manger scene.
I love the symbolism of it: God comes down to us!
It is quite a contrast to the story of the tower of Babel in the book of Genesis (Chapter 11). There, the people built a tower to the heavens. There they wanted to make a name for themselves by building a tower that goes up to God.
By today’s standards, the tower probably was not that tall. But note the contrast. In Genesis, people try to go up to God where as the Upside-Down Christmas tree reminds us God comes down to us.
In Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus, the angel tells Joseph that Mary’s son will be Emmanuel which means ‘God With Us’ (Literally – With Us God).
We call this the Gospel or the Good News.
There are two ways to look at religion. One form of religion is that I build myself a personal tower which will get me closer to God. Hopefully, if I do enough good things and don’t do too many bad things, I will find myself good enough that God might accept me.
There is another religion. This religion has its origins in the ruins of my personal tower. The tower I tried to build to get closer to God has collapsed under the weight of my own shortcomings. It starts in my own failures. It is there that God comes down to me. It is there that God brings me healing and acceptance.
The message of Christmas is just that. God comes to me not because I have lived up to a code of conduct, done the correct things and have not done too many of the wrong things.
No! God comes to a broken world to bring it healing. Jesus, God’s Son, comes as God with us and brings to us new life, new hope and a new path.
Peace Lutheran Church
Mill Valley, California