Take a moment to become still, aware of God’s presence, and then pray:
Loving Father, we thank you for the profound meaning and beauty of these days of Advent. In the midst of what can be a busy and hurried season we ask that you would calm our hearts and minds to be ready to receive. Reveal the glory of your beloved Son who dwelt among us to make us more like Him. Amen
But we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
It is one of my favorite Christmas stories and the favorite of many others. It is the story “The Visited Planet” told by Bible scholar and Bible translator J. B. Phillips. It’s a tale about a junior angel being introduced to the glories of the cosmos by a senior angel. At one point the senior angel pauses to point towards a small, insignificant looking ball turning on its axis. “I want you to watch that one particularly,” the senior angel instructs. “Well, it looks very small and rather dirty to me,” the junior angel objects. “What is so special about that one?” He then listens in bewilderment as senior angel explains that the small, insignificant ball is the glorious “Visited Planet”.
“Do you mean to tell me that He stooped so low as to become one of those creeping, crawling creatures on that floating ball?” “I do”, the senior angel insists. “And I don’t think He would like you to call them ‘creeping, crawling creatures’ in that tone of voice. For strange as it may seem to us, He actually loves them.” The senior angel pauses in amazement and then explains: “He went down to visit them to lift them up to become like Him.”
There is similar amazement in today’s scripture declaring that the Son of God “for a little while was made lower than the angels” in order that “he might taste death for everyone.” It is more than an angel can comprehend! More than a human being can take in!
Earlier in this book of Hebrews (1:2-4) the glories of the one made lower than the angels are set forth. We see that Jesus is the heir of all things; through Him all things were made; He is the reflection of God’s glory; the exact imprint of God’s very being; and it is Jesus who sustains all things by His powerful word. This Jesus is God Himself (1:8), and He is worshipped by angels (1:6). This is the eternal God who for us is made lower than the angels. He comes to do what angels cannot do.
In His fathomless stoop the Son of God takes on fallen human nature so that He might act as one of us, in our place and on our behalf. (Hebrews 5:1; 6:20; 7:25, 27; 9:7). “What an honor to us it was that He should take our nature into intimate union with Himself, passing the angelic hosts, and becoming man.” (Albert Barnes, Barnes Notes on the Bible) The creator of angels, worshipped by angels, was pleased to be made lower than the angels so that “he might taste death for everyone.”
Today’s scripture says more than Jesus simply died, but that He “might taste death”, or experience it in all of its horrors and fright. Jesus willingly goes through all the “suffering of death”, refusing even the narcotic of wine mixed with myrrh and gall (Matthew 27:34; Mark 15:23). He conquered death by tasting, by experiencing the infinitude of Hell and alienation from God “for everyone”.
Note the greatness of the last words of today’s scripture: “for everyone”. The word “everyone” is singular, which makes it very personal for each of us. Although Jesus did taste death for the whole world, every person can know Jesus tasted death for her or him. Thus, the apostle Paul not only can say that Jesus died for the world, but that “Christ loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). And you too can say it: “Christ loved me…and gave Himself for me!”
The senior angel in “The Visited Planet” was right! Let’s keep our eyes on our small and insignificant planet. The Son of God lifted us creeping, crawling creatures to be like Him!
Charles Wesley did not stop composing or singing with “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” In a later song Wesley continued to be in awe of God’s love and grace:
“And can it be that I should gain
an int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me?”– Charles Wesley
Think back over the past 24 hours and note when you experienced a “high” and a “low”. Share with God how the humanity of Jesus might speak to you in what you experienced.