One of my Christmas presents last year was the DVD set of the original series of Upstairs Downstairs. This year the series is to be revised, this time set in the 1930's.
The drama contrasts the lives of the rich and priviledged family who live upstairs and their servants who work in relative poverty downstairs. The lines of demarkation between the classes were clearly defined. Some characters accepted this divide, whilst others like Thomas the chauffer longed to escape his humble lot and had ambition to rise in wealth and status. Rarely was there any idea that those upstairs might choose to go "downstairs" There was an episode where one of the upstairs characters got involved in helping at a soup kitchen and became instrumental in rescuing a former maid from starvation but there was no suggestion that this character exchange places with the unfortunate maid or that the family would volutarily give up their wealth and position in order for others to become rich. It was unthinkable.
And in many ways who could blame them. My mother was born in 1920 and grew up in a family where times were extremely hard. I learned from her, that there is nothing romantic about being poor. I remember her telling me that it was not so much going without things that was so tough, but the humiliation of having to go to the shop and beg for charity, of being ridiculed by teachers at school for her clothes and the assumption that because she was poor she would be a servant or a factory worker until she was married. As it happened she became a Salvation Army officer, which didn't improve her bank balance but widened her horizons beyond all expectations.
At Christmas we celebrate the unthinkable. We acknowledge the sacrifice of our Lord, who for our sakes made the journey from Upstairs to Downstairs. Paul says,"For you know that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." What Christ did was not a romantic gesture. Jesus gave up more than the comfort of heaven when he came to earth, he knew the humiliation of poverty and the understanding of a persons true potential that poverty often cloaks.
Warren Wiersbe writes, "He united himself to mankind and took on himself a human body, left a throne to become a servant and laid aside all possessions. His ultimate experience of poverty was when he was made sin for us on the cross. Hell is eternal poverty and on the cross Jesus Christ became the poorest of the poor."