Have you slowed down enough this holiday season to enjoy the beautiful lights decorating the homes in your neighborhood? We did that the other night, and it was beautiful!
They, of course, pale in comparison to the glory of the lights that God has hung in His sky. The Psalmist says, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” Psalm 19:1
But it is impressive to see the extent to which people go to decorate their homes for Christmas!
Then there are others of us, like this homeowner, who’d rather kick back, relax, and watch the football games offered at the holiday season. Amen?
The lights on our houses are our humble attempt to experience the glory of Christmas and celebrate how God in His grace pierced our darkness with His marvelous light. Speaking of Jesus, the Apostle John writes, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men and the light shines in the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it.” The first hint of that was the appearance of the angels to the shepherds of Bethlehem.
Luke says, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.” Then, having told them about Jesus, it says: “There was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:8-16
Christmas is a time of glory and wonder, the greatest glory a Baby lying in a manger because this Baby was more than a Baby. Colossians 2:9 declares, “In Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” Or as John puts it in John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” “The Word became flesh” refers, of course, to Jesus who was with God in the beginning and is Himself God the Son.
The phrase, “made His dwelling among us,” adds to the glory of the God who loves us. It means that the Creator who made all that there is became a man and lived among us. Theologians call this the Incarnation—the act of the Creator taking on human flesh and becoming a man. John says of this miracle, “We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father.” Glory is one of John’s favorite words. He uses it 15 times to describe a visual splendor you can see with your eyes. Seen is the word from which we get our word theater, meaning to gaze upon something with great interest and awe. Put the two together and in John’s mind, there is no sight more glorious than the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:6 agrees—“For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” That’s our study today–the glory of Christmas seen in the person of Jesus.
1. It was a veiled glory
The Bible says when God took on humanity, He temporarily laid aside His glory, so that no one could look at Him and said, “Hey, that baby looks like God!” The truth is, if you hadn’t known better, you would have assumed that Jesus was just like any other little boy—which is what He intended for if He hadn’t laid aside His glory, He wouldn’t have been able to suffer and die for our sins. Consequently, when Jesus appeared in the synagogue of Nazareth announcing that all of the Messianic prophecies were fulfilled in Him, how did the people react? They said, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Aren’t his sisters with us? Where did this man get these things?” And
“they took offense at him” because there was nothing impressive about him.
Maybe you’ve had an experience like this. I went to Stadium High School in Tacoma and one of the things I found I was good at was math. I scored over 700 on the SAT in math and thought I was pretty smart until I learned that two guys did even better than I. One of them was named Brian. Brian was also a very good pool player. But other than that, there wasn’t anything outstanding about him. In fact, I thought he was kind of a dweeb, and I didn’t like the way he smirked at me every time he beat me in pool, and he did beat me every time.
So 15 years later when I open the newspaper and read that he’s just been elected Pierce County Auditor and 6 years later, the auditor of our entire state, I couldn’t believe it! Other than being good at math and pool, there wasn’t anything that impressed me about him! But I was wrong! Brian Sonntag was the 5-term Washington State Auditor and received 70% of the vote in his last election.
People had a similar reaction to Jesus. They looked at Him and said, “There’s nothing outstanding about this guy!” So if his glory was veiled, how could John write, “We have seen His glory?” The reason is because His glory was only veiled, not eradicated. In fact, for anyone who was looking, there were unmistakable signs of His glory from birth—the star over Bethlehem guiding the magi to where the King of the Jews was born.
Later, God spoke from Heaven at His baptism declaring, “This is My Beloved Son. In Him I am well pleased.” And there were also miracles—hundreds and thousands of them all pointing to His glory!
But I believe what John really had in mind when he wrote this was the Transfiguration of Christ, when He appeared to Peter, James, and John in all of His power and majesty. How did they react when they saw Him? They fell at His feet in worship, which is the same thing all of humanity will do at the return of Jesus. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father!
But we mustn’t wait until then to do so because it will be far too late then. The time to come and adore Him is now while you have a chance to turn to Him and follow Him as your Savior. It was a veiled glory and—
2. It will be a shared glory
Why did Jesus take on human flesh, veil His glory, and die on a cross for our sins? Hebrews 2:10 says: “God for whom and through whom everything was made chose to bring many children to glory, and it was only right that He should make Jesus, through His suffering, a perfect leader” to bring us to salvation. The purpose of the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection was to turn sinners into God’s children who will share His glory forever. How He’s preparing us for that today we’ll see in a moment.
But the first thing I want to know when going through a trial is how it’s going to end. So let’s take a moment to think about that–the eternal glory Jesus promises to share with us. Did you know that—that one day glory will be as natural to us as trial and temptation are today? What’s going to bring about the change? Jesus is coming again! That’s one of the great motivations for celebrating Christmas. Whenever we remember His first coming, it ought to remind us that He’s coming again!
And when He comes again, His first item of business will be to change these sinful, dying bodies into glorious new bodies like His own—impervious to sin and death, which may not relieve what you’re suffering today but “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus. Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ. One glimpse of His dear face, all sorrow will erase, so bravely run the race till we see Christ.” The reason sorrow will cease the moment we see Him is because the face of Jesus is the most glorious sight in the universe, so glorious it’ll change us forever. I John 3 adds:
The fact is: Many of us ambitious and competitive, especially the young men among us, and that’s understandable because that’s what we were designed for. We were designed for glory! But we need to be sure it’s the right kind of glory we’re striving for, and that isn’t first and foremost of all our jobs, our schooling, our good looks, or our success in ministry. Our first ambition, in light of His coming, is to be like Him! That’s the final fact I want to look at together. It was a veiled glory. It will be a shared glory. But even now—
3. It can and should be a transforming glory
As they ask in Celebrate Recovery, what’s the biggest hurt, habit, or hang-up you’re trying to overcome? The Bible says we all stumble in many ways, which means not one of us has it together yet, and the moment you think you do, watch out because you’re headed for a fall!
We all have a ton of work to do in becoming like Jesus, but here’s hope for the battle weary. You can change no matter how many times you’ve failed before and the way to do it is the same method we’ve talking about all morning. Read one more passage before we finish! I know you’ll find it encouraging. The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:18–
Two things to notice here! First, notice that what changes us now is the same thing that’ll change us then, and that’s by beholding the glory of the Lord. We can’t do that perfectly yet. Paul says it’s like looking in a mirror, and the glass in those ancient mirrors was anything but clear! But that’s OK!
We don’t need a perfect image of Christ to change because, and this is the second thing to notice—it isn’t we who change ourselves; it’s the Spirit who changes us, and He doesn’t need to have a lot to work with because the Spirit is the Lord, and the Lord is very patient with us. He doesn’t expect us to change overnight. The way He changes us is little by little, from glory to glory, until we begin to look like Jesus ourselves. What we have to do is to keep His face ever before us, which means like almost everything else in life, spiritual change is a worship issue. You see, when Jesus comes again, it won’t take any effort to be like Him. All we’ll have to do is look at Him and we’ll be changed. But today it requires a choice.
I’m thinking now of when I first met Cheryl. I was seeing a couple other young women on a casual basis, at least in my mind it was casual. But I’ll never forget the night I told Cheryl about it. She let me know in no uncertain terms that if I had any interest in her, I’d better say goodbye to all other girls right now. And given the glorious treasure I found in Cheryl, it didn’t take me but a moment to make up my mind. After all, when you have a chance at the best, why risk it for something else?
So it is with Jesus! Jesus is a jealous God who will not share our love with anyone. So we have a choice to make, and it should be an easy one because there is no one as glorious as Jesus! Let that be my challenge and invitation to you as I close. Whatever is obscuring your view of Jesus, remove it from your life and make this your Merriest Christmas ever adoring the Only One who can meet all the needs of your heart.