There are probably few images more evocative than the manger – that of the shepherds and the Wise Men kneeling before the babe, Christ Jesus. We know that it is unlikely that the two groups were there at the same time, and also, the Biblical record doesn’t include the angels that we place around the primitive scene, but we sense that in that moment kings and common men, indeed, heaven and earth were drawn together. It is a kind of cosmic, but simple image. God has come – in innocence. And men, yes, and angels, even the stars, have declared his coming.
We are drawn to this image. The manger scene never grows old. We buy them and place them on our mantles, in our yards – large and small ones. It is the story of hope. Of God, who has come to earth. Of the possibility of peace. Children and seniors are both moved by it. The poor and the powerful.
All of us want to kneel around the manger – to touch the child. To hold the hope. To sing with the angels. To believe, that with this child, the world will be a better place. Psalm 95:6 issues the call, “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” This is the call of heaven to the entire earth – to kneel, to bow down, and to receive the blessing from our Creator and Redeemer. Bowing, kneeling is a sacred matter.
There are cameo moments in Scripture where some godly man knelt and history pivoted. Abraham, on seeing the three angels, one of them, the Angel of Yahweh, “… ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground” (Gen. 18:2). This was a life-changing moment for him and arguably, for the world – the barrenness was broken. Sarah would now have the long-awaited child, ‘Laughter,’ known to us as Isaac.
Men have, throughout history, bowed before the throne of God. In the incarnation, God came to earth, and men bowed before him (Jesus) – and out of him flowed blessing.
The etymological root of the word bless in the Old Testament is – to kneel! The implications of the idea are explosive. To kneel is to position oneself for blessing from God. It is a declaration of dependence. It is an act of humility. It is the tranquility of stillness – how can we move about on our knees? It is the lowering of self. It is coming beneath the shadow of God. It anticipates God above, hovering, touching, giving life, brooding, anointing, imparting – blessing! It the opposite of arrogance, of self-sufficiency, of proudly standing by one’s own strength. It is the end of pride. In the Hebrew mind, the knees were an indication of strength and therefore, to bend a knee, was to subordinate strength to God. Prayer, kneeling, is learning to lean into His strength. To kneel is to seek the blessing of God. It anticipates a positive response. It expects the gift of grace. It awaits a sense of His loving presence. It looks forward to what God might say or do!
At this Christmas season – take time to kneel before the Lord!
Give the Gift of Prayer this Christmas Season
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P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.