“Am I missing something?” We have all at one time or another said or thought these words. The situations which trigger this awkward feeling can be varied: you walk into a room where everyone is laughing; you miss the punch line of a joke you are supposed to understand; you get a grade on a paper or test which is far below what you expected; you encounter a usually happy family member or friend whose face is full of tears; you walk into a house for a quiet evening with a friend and the room explodes with the word “surprise!” Love them or hate them, it is life’s surprises which tend to make the “highlights reels” of our lives. Of course, what lies behind the unexpected is what impacts us the most, leading sometimes to pain and sorrow, other times bringing unanticipated joy.
The gospels are full of surprises. Jesus was constantly doing or saying things which left the people around him completely flabbergasted. There was something about Jesus which left people stunned for words, asking questions they couldn’t answer or trembling with fear. Jesus amazed people with his understanding of Scripture. Luke tells us that the young boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem speaking with the teachers in the temple and “all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and answers” (Luke 2:47). His teaching as an adult made an even deeper impression: “And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him’” (Mark 1:27). The miracles he performed left people asking who he could be: after healing a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute “all the people were amazed, and said, ‘Can this be the Son of David?’” (Matthew 12:23) Even Pilate was “amazed” when Jesus refused to answer him (Mark 15:5). The Bible teaches us that it is not the unexpected things Jesus said and did which are the real surprise, but Jesus himself.
Perhaps no place in the New Testament more aptly describes who lay behind all this than these words from the beginning of John’s gospel: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) Twice he uses the word “glory” to describe the Lord Jesus. Glory is a very rich word in the Scriptures. When used to describe God, the context is often something that can be seen and that points to his otherwise unseen majesty. The book of Exodus repeatedly refers to the glory of the Lord appearing in a cloud. Psalm 19 begins with the words, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Glory ultimately points us to the superiority of God over all things. This is delightfully illustrated by the root meaning of the Hebrew word for glory, which has the connotation of “weightiness.” It is as if God were on one side of an old-fashioned balancing scale and the whole universe is on the other, and someone asks, “Which weighs more?” The staggering truth of the Incarnation is that in Jesus the disciples beheld the glory of God!
The theme of this year’s Lessons and Carols service is “Behold his glory.” The Scripture lessons, homily, and musical selections will proclaim for all to hear the awesome news of who Christ is, why he came, and help us look ahead to his coming again. Several audience carols will offer the opportunity for joyful response!
Has Christmas become routine for you? For many, it is simply a season where we attend to our list of traditions, anticipate fun family gatherings, and feast on great food. For others, Christmas time still has a sense of wonder and excitement; we long for the joy that Christmas brings, but where are we looking for it? One of the most outrageous gifts ever requested in Scripture was from Moses. He said, “Please show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18). Have you ever wanted to see the glory of God? Would it surprise you to find out that glory is exactly what Jesus wants us to see? John 17 records the prayer Jesus made on behalf of his people. He says, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” We can taste now what will be fully revealed later. Don’t miss it!