A typical morning for me lately is getting an early “breakfast video chat” with my almost four-year-old granddaughter Violet. We usually catch up on events from the day before and what she looks forward to in the present day’s activities. Sometimes I read her a story while she’s eating; other times we describe our dreams. One recent morning, she described her latest “non-dream” in living-color: “Nana, I didn’t have any dreams because my dreams were out driving in a pink convertible, and they got pizza and then they had a car picnic. Now they’re on their way to the park.” What a glorious ‘non-dream!’
“Glory.” It is a small word that packs an enormous punch. There is much mystery around that word, at least for me. “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid” (Luke 2:9-10). There seems to be a connection between the glory of God and light. God’s glory at Advent often showed up in ancient art that depicted the Christ child with a halo of light resting on His head. Light is used in many religious paintings to symbolize the Presence of God. Jesus is called “the Light” in John 1: “the light came into the darkness and the darkness could not comprehend it.” So much of the majesty and glory of God incarnate is incomprehensible, but as children of God, we are beckoned to pay attention to the Light, to the mysterious Presence that peeks through in both big and small ways.
Exodus 33:12-18 describes one of many significant encounters Moses had with God and His glory. (He had many experiences of God, but this one and the Transfiguration stand out to me). Moses seemingly pleads with God to show him who will be accompanying him on this journey of leading the chosen people. God responds: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Moses presses God a bit more: “Now show me your glory.” That is a bold request coming from such a flawed person like Moses (he had already killed someone). Here God graciously instructs Moses: when He passes “all of His goodness in front of him,” He will protect Moses by placing him in the cleft of a rock and covering him with His hand. This tells me the glory of the living God is just too much; it’s overwhelming and quite honestly, seems frightening. We don’t have the capacity, really, to wrap our minds around so much goodness and glory. I guess that is the point of glory: it comes from God, and I believe it is probably why the book of Revelation intimidates most of us. There’s so much glory!
I believe children understand glory best and most easily. It is probably why Jesus welcomed them with open arms and implored us to have faith “as a little child.” This year, on my daughter Kelli’s birthday, Violet walked up to her, carefully balancing a red leaf in the palms of her hands. As she held it out and presented it to Kelli (almost like the wise man who brought the gift of frankincense) she said, “This leaf blesses the Lord” and walked away. The newness and innocence of recognizing a little of God’s glory in this way astounds me and weakens me in the knees. As we get older and get beaten up by life, our sense of what glory looks like can seem a bit tarnished.
In his book, Songs for a Savior’s Birth, William Philip writes, “The message of Christmas is both simple and beautiful: God is calling out from heaven and saying, ‘Come to the sunrise! Rejoice in the light of my beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and the sun will surely rise in your life, bringing the dawn of a new day that never ends, of a sunset that never comes, of a light that is everlasting.’”
I hope this Christmas you experience the Presence of Jesus in the same way that Moses did, with “all of His goodness in front of you” as He places you in the cleft of the pandemic rock and covers you with His hand. “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” (John 1:14). Hear this word to you from God: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” This is the message of Christmas: the Christ child came so that people could fully experience and be transformed by the presence of God. The Westminster Confession states it quite simply: “The chief end of humankind is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
As many of you know, my sweet mother passed away on December 16th at the age of 92. (You can read more about her in my December 2nd blog). My mom’s name was Goldie, and she had an almost rabid sweet tooth (I certainly can blame her for mine). One of the things that seemed to almost bring her comfort in these last months were pink lozenges. She had a little container on her nightstand, and the caretakers often found several that missed her mouth and ended up on the floor. In recent days, as I have gotten many texts of condolences from friends and family, I had to chuckle when one of the caretakers texted me, “I hope they have pink lozenges in heaven.”
I am confident that my mom trusted Jesus as Savior over her life. She endured much hardship in this life, from losing her mom at the tender age of five to suffering from chronic pain in her old age. She is free of that now. She has experienced glory in a way that I can only dream about. God has reclaimed her as His own. Paul described the process in this way: “Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21).
I am not sure of the theological correctness of this next statement, so please forgive me in advance, but I hope my mom is riding around in a pink convertible with Jesus, my dad, and others, and I hope there is a stash of pink lozenges in the glove compartment.
O, Come let us adore Him. Have a blessed Christmas.