Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne
Don’t let the King James English put you off this Christmas Hymn; it is a feast of worship, and a clear call to examine our own lives. The lyrics remind us of what it cost Jesus to come to earth to be our Savior, and challenge us to consider if we are willing to shoulder the cost of following Him.
The desire for comfort is normal in humans, after all, we were created for perfection, not pain. We can see throughout history that we have sought as many comfort features as our minds and hands could devise. But our current western culture has probably raised the desire for comfort to the level of idolatry. When we get uncomfortable we whine and get grumpy. We can hardly abide the merest of rumbles of our belly, and continue to consume food for the pleasure of our mouths long after we have filled the needs of our body. Gone are the days where we had to search out the raw foodstuffs needed to create our meal from scratch. Now we can quickly pop open a box or can, dash to a vending machine at work, or run to a drive through to get something to eat.
And when it comes to comfort, home and office wars have been fought over the control of the thermostat. We seek out the softest, most comfortable clothes, shoes, luxurious towels, beds—you name it. As I was writing this, I was noticing how uncomfortable the pen was, and wondering if I had a more ergonomic one. When we feel the discomfort of pain, we quickly reach for a pill. When our emotions are disquieted, we look for something to soothe them; if not a pill, then maybe a drink or a distraction. If we paid attention to how often during the day we change our behavior based on our comfort level, we might be astounded how much it governs our lives. And we’d become more aware of what we choose to salve our discomfort.
Therefore, when we consider that Heaven is a place where there is no want or discomfort or pain, and there is full satisfaction, and that this had been the experience of the Son in all of eternity, the realization that He would willingly leave all of that and come to a place of privation, suffering, and discomfort is all the more stunning. He left the full authority of His reign in Heaven to submit to the authority of His earthly parents, and eventually to submit to the authority of those who would kill Him. Granted, He knew He was submitting ultimately to the authority and will of the Father, indeed the whole Godhead, but still He was the Creator submitting to the conditions and authority of the created—conditions formed through our sinfulness and rebellion.
As the lyrics point out, this took a lot of humility. How do we react when our toes get stepped on or our authority challenged? It generally isn’t a humble response. Even as children we were known to chafe when a younger child got cheeky with us. Kids rebel against parents because they feel their autonomy is being threatened, and parents get angry in return because they see the rebellion as a challenge to their authority. It goes on and on, between spouses, bosses and workers, the populace and the government. Rebellion and demands of autonomy are not rare; they have been the norm of human existence since Adam and Eve chose to rebel in the Garden of Eden. What is rare is humble submission to God’s authority, and to those which He puts in places of power in our lives. That is what Jesus modeled for us so perfectly.
He humbly submitted to being rejected, to insults, being lied about, struck, spat upon, beaten, scourged, and nailed to a cross. At His arrest He told His disciples not to fight back, because He could have called legions of angels to His defense, should He have chosen to be spared what was coming. But He didn’t, because He was willing to bear all of that pain, humbling Himself to submit to death—for us.
Yet many of us will not endure discomfort in order to serve Him. We complain when the church isn’t the right temperature or the seats aren’t comfortable enough. We find it more comfortable and convenient to worship in our jammies on the couch than to venture out to church (assuming we are physically able). Jesus’ coming for us was anything but comfortable or convenient. We will not hear “well done” for our service if comfort and convenience is our continual standard for our willingness to follow Him.
When Jesus came to earth “there was no room,” and that is, sadly, too often the case with us today. In a culture that has more free time than any other in the history of this planet, we seem to have less time for God than ever before. We need to take a serious look at our lives and evaluate what holds us back from receiving the fullness of the wonderful Gift that was given us that night 2000 years ago. What is in our way that there is “no room” for Him in our lives, or at least not more room? What comforts and conveniences age getting in the way of giving our all to Him? What are we unwilling to fully submit to the will of God, even at the cost of experiencing pain and loss like Jesus did?
If we are to follow Jesus and truly walk as He walked, we need to take such questions before Him and honestly seek Him for some tough answers. Such thoughts may leave us feeling a bit spiritually uncomfortable, but that could be the very thing our souls really need if we are to say, “There is room in my soul for Thee.”