Sitting around the Christmas tree, with our last, remaining kid at home, we swapped passages of Scripture, because that’s really what Christmas is really about.
Smiles read a couple of parts of Isaiah, the prophet who told us specific details about Jesus hundreds of years before His virgin mama delivered Him to the world in between slats of barn walls.
Then I read about the birth, out of Matthew’s account, since that’s where I’ve been camping this year. And once again, it struck me, but from a slightly different vantage point, the significance of those three gifts. All three pertaining to the Temple, God’s dwelling place: Gold overlaid so much of it, especially the Holy of holies (the innermost chamber where God Himself dwelt). Frankincense, an ingredient in the incense. Incense has always represented prayers rising to heaven. Frankincense for this Toddler who would become the Mediator between God and mankind. The Great Intercessory Prayer, who continues to intercede for us, even from the Throne room of heaven. And Myrrh, an ingredient for the anointing oil, meant to consecrate the priest and specific elements of the Temple intended for worship. The Anointed One, consecrated for the work of the Priest, to make the sacrifice that would purify mankind.
I ponder this. These wise men traveling for about two years, to meet a tiny King, and give Him gifts that would foreshadow Who this Child was intended to be. And I just kinda sit there, with my thoughts, amazed. Because the wise men got it. They really understood that this baby King was otherworldly. He may have been condensed into tiny, impoverished flesh, but He was the Eternal One. He was GOD with us. The God who moved the Holy of holies into our hearts, where His Spirit would soon dwell. The God who would become the offering, and make way for our prayers to reach the ears of God Himself.
I am always amazed at the humility of God, this time of year. The God who would breathed out galaxies, yet would condense Himself into human flesh, and not just any flesh, but one who continuously chose to make Himself as lowly as possible, so that the lowliest of men would know that God had stooped to reach them, to bring heaven to the most abased of earth. But this year, I have been amazed, again and again, how God showed Himself to be the Majestic One, through the events surrounding His birth. An orchestra of angels manifest in the sky, as a birth announcement. Magi bring gifts on a years-long journey, that express the holiness and glory of the One they sought out to bestow them with. Soon after, Simeon would hold a newborn in Solomon’s temple, exclaiming that God had promised he would see the Messiah before he died, and now he can die in peace because Simeon had seen the face of God Himself. Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Lord, would be the one sent to let Mary know that her whole world was about to be turned upside down, and her purpose on earth would be of eternal worth. Plus, many more things, all of which proclaim God’s Majesty in human form.
I keep waiting for our vision to clear in 2020. 20/20 has always resembled perfect vision, but I’m not sure how a year that feels like pond sludge is supposed to make our vision clear. Still, I do remember a time Jesus leaned down, spit in the mud, wiped it on a guy’s eyes, and suddenly the blind man could see.
Maybe this 20/20 vision is clearing as heaven seems to draw nearer, and earth fades. Before I crawled out of bed, this morning, I reached down for the Book that clarifies my vision. I plopped it open, and these words spilled off the page, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16–18).
This year has been brutal for most of us. There are bright spots, for sure, but the future feels very uncertain, and we all ought to be more keenly aware of how vulnerable and temporal we are. So the ones among us who recognize the value and authority of God, have begun to look more deeply at the things which are unseen. Maybe my year is a little like my Christmas… the vision is transitioning from enjoying God on earth to enjoying God eternal… just as the Christmas story I read year after year is transitioning in my mind from a Baby in a manger to God Incarnate who we, like Simeon, because He chose to enter our atmosphere, get to see the face of God!