A lot of people started Christmas early this year. They got the decorations out, put on the Christmas music, and set up the tree. Apparently, starting the Christmas season early was supposed to distract from the trials of 2020. Maybe having something else to focus on helps for some people. And yet, even Christmas doesn’t feel quite the same. Sure the decorations are the same, the music is the same. But travel plans, family get-togethers, neighborhood parties, church services, and outreach events have all been impacted by the pandemic.
Hopefully, amidst all the very real hardships, the pandemic will help us focus on what Christmas is really all about. Maybe this year we won’t get so caught up in getting just the right presents, keeping extended families happy, and being home from work (we’re already home). Maybe this year it will be a little easier to remember that Christmas is the celebration of the Most High God, becoming low, coming down to rescue us.
Referring to God as the Most High is a common Old Testament name, occurring first in Genesis and repeated often in the Psalms. Typically the name Most High is a translation of the Hebrew name for God, “Elyon.” It highlights that God is the most powerful, most exalted, the most worthy of praise. Our God is to be feared, to be worshiped, to be followed. He is the Most High. “For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth” (Psalm 47:2).
In Luke’s Gospel, he refers to God five times as the Most High. In the birth narrative, the angel appears to Mary and says, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:30-32). The glory of Christmas is not just that God sent a Savior, but he sent his own Son. In ancient culture, the firstborn son carried the same title and authority as his father. If you were the son of a farmer, you’d be a farmer. If you were the son of a king, that meant you were royalty. Jesus, the baby born to Mary, is the embodiment of the Most High. “The exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). As Jesus would say later, “I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10:30).
Lots about Christmas might look different this year, but what is most important hasn’t changed. This year – like every year – we celebrate God’s great rescue plan. The Most High God made himself low. He saw us in our broken state; he loved us; and so, he came to earth to live among us. Jesus died on the cross and rose again to rescue us, to bring us to himself.
The Son of the Most High born in a manger to give us life. That is an eternal truth. That is good news that doesn’t change.
Listen to a recent sermon related to this blog: The Tender Mercy of God