Recently I had a conversation with someone from another country who did not grow up hearing the Christmas stories about Jesus. She asked me an interesting question. She asked me if I could show her a picture of God.
Like any good-hearted American I pulled out my iPhone and googled a picture of God. Up came several famous ones—like Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel painting. As I showed them to her, I told her about the Bible and the Ten Commandments, explaining that the first four Commandments talk about our relationship with God. I explained that God is the one who told us not to make an image of Him. I told her about Noah wanting to see Him and how God hid Moses in the crest of a rock and passed by so that he saw His back as He passed by. God did this so Moses could see Him and live. Our sin keeps us from being able to see God. She replied, “He doesn’t let us see Him because He loves us.” Yes, I answered.
She commented: “I know that you feel Him in your heart, I can sense that when you pray.” I told her that was true. I know He is real even though I cannot see Him. Faith is about believing without seeing.
Beginning with Advent, we celebrate and remember the important events of Jesus’ life on earth. When Jesus walked on this earth, there were many people who saw God with their human eyes. God disguised His glory by taking on human flesh. Everyone who laid eyes on Jesus during His short span of years saw God. Not all of them believed He was God. Only those who looked at Him and believed what He said have eternal life. Evidently even when God is standing right in front of you, it’s not about seeing God with your eyes; it is about seeing God with your heart.
This second week of Advent we light a candle for peace. There is no greater picture of the God of peace than the beautiful image contained in the nativity. God disguised the glory of His Son (although a few disciples got a glimpse but couldn’t truly understand the significance of the Transfiguration—Matthew 17). We cannot handle God’s glory in our sinful condition, so God sent His Son to became man so that one day in heaven we can be righteous through Christ and be face to face with God. This baby was on a mission of peace. His purpose for being on earth was to make a way that we could once again see the face of God.
In the meantime, until we can see God face to face, we have the Peace of Jesus to imagine the wonder of God. Jesus said, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father” (John 14:9). What do you see when you imagine the Nativity? Do you see the peace the Angels talked about? Do you sense the peace of a newborn infant lying in a manger completely surrendered to the care of human beings? He is the God of peace, and He could not prove that more dramatically than through the peace of the manger.
Light your second candle this week and open your heart, mind and spirit to the peace of this season. Ponder what it means that the only image of God was not made by human hands (though it was cared for by humans) but made by the Word of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us!
Scriptures for reflection: Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11; Isaiah 2:1-5; Matthew 3:1-6.