Tucked away in a tiny verse in the book of Ephesians we find an amazing truth. Almost as an aside, the apostle Paul gives us a glimpse of the amazing love exhibited in God's great rescue mission for humanity.
"He ascended... but... he also first descended to the lower parts of the earth" (Ephesians 4:9).
One of the best known Christmas songs includes the line, "He came down to earth from heaven - who is Christ the Lord of All." It might easily have been based on the same statement we have from Paul. Imagine. The Christ who is now exalted in all his fully-deserving glory and honour is the same one who first came down to the lower parts of the earth.
We truly serve a down-to-earth God. One who knows, first hand, our earthly life with all its joys and sorrows, with all its treachery and misunderstanding. God built up to this point in history until finally he, in the person of his Son, became a part of it. God entered his creation in a genuinely human and physical body. He entered history in order change history. From the birth of Christ, to his public ministry, to his rejection by death on the cross, to his subsequent resurrection and, ultimately, to his taking his rightful place back in heaven - all this was to create the hinge upon which human destiny turns.
Nothing would ever be the same again, once he descended. Everything would be different. The coming of Christ is now an eternal reference point, bookmarking the most decisive chapter in God's story. Before, there was darkness; now the light shines. Before, where there was sadness; now there is rejoicing. Before, where there is selfishness and God-indifference; now there is love and passion for the Creator. Before, where there was sin; now there is forgiveness, there is redemption.
Of course, it took the whole life and death of Jesus on this planet to bring that about, and it will take the rest of the course of human history to see it fully outworked. Nevertheless, it all began when God stepped down from heaven to earth, as we recall in the Christmas story.
Celebrate this Christmas as the start of something new. Something new in you, your family and your community. But also remember, it's only the beginning. God hasn't finished with us yet! The story is still being told, in my life and in yours. One day, the whole universe will blaze in the fully flood-lit unveiling of who God is. We will see with our own eyes everything God purposed that first Christmas day, when he sent heaven down to earth.