Up There & Down Here
…He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father…
Reflecting on this after Christmas, I have a very simple theological point to make in regards to this line from the Creed. It is fairly easy to think of Jesus Christ “up there” – a vague idea that heaven is somewhere and that is where Christ is. Whether our imaginations fill that “up there” with fluffy clouds and angels or something more cosmic and dramatic, we push Jesus “up there.”
It makes sense we do this. Our lived experience often supports this separation. We don’t see or feel Jesus the same way we do those in our lives. We don’t see him daily like we do our coworkers or neighbors. We don’t touch him with handshakes, hugs, or a joking elbow jab as we do with friends and loved ones. Without that tangible interaction, it is natural to think of Jesus as being “somewhere else.”
We can struggle to grasp how the Christ who sits at the Father’s right hand “up there” could possibly be someone we relate to as a close friend or family member “down here.” As we just finished the Christmas season, it is timely to remember that Jesus is just as much present here and now as he was in that manger, or on the Sea of Galilee, or walking to Jerusalem. Yes, he is also “up there” with God.
The power and comfort in having Jesus present both “here and now” and “up there” cannot be underestimated. We have Jesus the Christ, the one we can hope to spend eternity with, the one who hears our prayers and shares them with the Trinity, the one who is all-powerful, all-merciful, all-knowing. We have Jesus the Christ, the one who will sit in the waiting room, listens to our prayers as we sip morning coffee, the one who wants to and can be present to our daily, earthy lives.
As we settle into that dull season that spans the dark and chilly months between Christmas and Lent, this little Ordinary Time, I invite you to intentionally spend time with both these understandings of Jesus. This quieter season is an opportunity to develop a deeper relationship with both. Sit with them, listen to them, share with them, you may find this darker, liminal season becomes a time that nurtures growth and strength.