“When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.” Luke 24:50-53
Throughout this Christmas season, I hope you are delighted and awed anew by the wonder of the nativity story. May the wonder of the incarnation (literally, “enfleshing”) of the divine fill your heart, mind, and body.
What happened those months in Mary’s womb, culminating in our Master’s birth in Bethlehem that night, remains a mystery to us. We do know, though, that the fullness of God came to dwell in a physical frame. The One who was “the Word” took on flesh and was named Jesus. He came from the Father, and that meant something in the dynamic of their relationship changed. A distance became fixed between them that had never been there before.
The end of Luke’s account (quoted above) should bring great joy and satisfaction to all who love our Master. He had spoken with longing about returning to His Father in Heaven, and here we read of the moment it happened. What a joyful reunion that must have been for them! What a long thirty-three(ish) years they must have been! Don’t you imagine the hosts of Heaven being overcome with celebration to welcome their King to His city and throne? We aren’t given details about Heaven’s goings-on after the ascension, but we can certainly try to imagine.
As you celebrate the humiliation our Master chose to experience for us, Disciple, remember also the unfathomable reward He received from Father in return. He has shown us, better than anyone else could, that there is great sacrifice required to serve the living God and that there is breathtaking glory generously given to those who do serve Him (see Revelation 3:21). Jesus returned to His true country in the fanfare befitting a conqueror, though He had been slain by the great earthly empire of Rome. Seemingly defeated by Caesar, Jesus defeated the timeless tyrant Death on the third day, and delivered to Satan a stunning blow.
Celebrate the night your Beloved was born, Disciple, and may that celebration be filled with joy and passion. Follow the thread from that night in Bethlehem, all the way through the towns and villages of Israel, up to the hill of Golgotha, down into a rock-cut tomb, and then into the sky and Heaven itself. The wonder of Christmas night was the beginning of so many wonders. And, of course, He is the greatest wonder of them all.
Wishing you a Christmas season full of wonder, worship, and utter joy,