John the Apostle always brings us close to heaven, especially as he reveals to us the glory that was in the Lord Jesus Christ. Both in his gospel and his first epistle he graphical portrays what it was like to behold the Son of God in the flesh. In two short parentheses, he lets us behold Him: (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) John 1:14; and (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us), 1 John 1:2.
Christ, by highest heav’n adored
Christ, the everlasting Lord:
Late in time behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the God-head see,
Hail th’ incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.
Hark the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King!”
John boldly tells us that when he looked at Christ, he was seeing the Father’s glory. A.T. Robertson, in commenting on Colossians 1:15, Who is the image of the invisible God, wrote, “God is invisible to man, as even Moses learned when he asked to see the glory of God pass by. God dwells in light unapproachable, whom no one has seen or can see (1 Tim 6:16). But we see God in Christ. ‘He that has seen me has seen the Father’ (Jn 14:9). God is like Christ. In the face of Jesus Christ God has given the light of the knowledge of his glory (2 Cor 4:6). Jesus is the Shekinah glory of God for those who have eyes to see.”1
We should not be surprised at the absence of holy things in the Christmas of the commercial world. The real glory of the Son of God always causes the darkness to flee. People would rather spend their time and thoughts on the temporal glories of Christmas tree lights, silver tinsel and brightly decorated packages than on even the veiled glory of the God of heaven.
I have wondered when our culture might do away with the word “Christmas” altogether. After all, it is a constant reminder of the Person who brings the real meaning to this season. Even the word “holiday” reminds us that the day of our Savior’s birth is “holy” and that our commercialization of God’s incarnation is a desecration to His personification. Christian hymn writers help us see this better.
There’s a tumult of joy
O’er the wonderful birth,
For the Virgin’s sweet Boy
Is the Lord of the earth!
Ay! The star rains its fire while the beautiful sing, For the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!
We rejoice in the light,
And we echo the song
That comes down thru the night
From the heavenly throng.
Ay! We shout to the lovely evangel they bring, And we greet in His cradle our Savior and King!
Wise men, whether pious or mildly religious, have recognized the awesome truth of the identity of Jesus of Nazareth. C.S. Lewis, in a famous statement, says:
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.2
Similarly, and a half century earlier, G.K. Chesterton wrote concerning the identity of the Jesus Christ:
It can be found, not among prophets and sages and founders of religions, but only among a low set of lunatics. But this is exactly where the argument becomes intensely interesting; because the argument proves too much. For nobody supposes that Jesus of Nazareth was that sort of person. No modern critic in his five wits thinks that the preacher of the Sermon on the Mount was a horrible half-witted imbecile that might be scrawling stars on the walls of a cell. No atheist or blasphemer believes that the author of the Parable of the Prodigal Son was a monster with one mad idea like a cyclops with one eye. Upon any possible historical criticism, he must be put higher in the scale of human beings than that. Yet by all analogy we have really to put him there or else in the highest place of all.2
John says he beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father. He says he saw that glory in Jesus. His eyes looked upon it, his hands handled it, his ears heard it. He beheld His glory!
Come to Bethlehem and see, Him whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee, Christ the Lord, the new-born King.
See Him in a manger laid, Jesus, Lord of heav’n and earth;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid, With us sing our Savior’s birth.
Gloria, in excelsis Deo! Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
At this season of our Lord’s birth, let us also behold Him who is the glory of God and of Heaven! For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased (2 Peter 1:17).Notes: 1. A.T. Robertson, Paul and the Intellectuals (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1959) 41. 2. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Collier Books, 1984) 56. 3. G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993) 203.