I recently created a 31-day Advent/Christmas devotional booklet for my church called “Glory to God in the Highest.” I will be posting a devotional from it each day between now and the end of the year. Enjoy!
Scripture: John 1:14
At around noon on May 30, 1984, my eighth-grade classmates and I stood in a field near our high school to witness an annular solar eclipse. For a few moments, the moon passed in front of the sun. It appeared as if the sun were completely blacked out. Our teachers warned us repeatedly: “Don’t look up at the sky! You might go blind!” Or at least, they said, the light from the sun that isn’t blocked by the moon could damage our vision.
So instead of watching the eclipse directly, we watched it indirectly, through pinhole projectors made from shoeboxes.
As exciting as this was—and as happy as I was to be excused from class for most of the afternoon—I was too worried about being accidentally blinded by the sun to enjoy the experience. After all, if someone tells you not to think of pink elephants, what do you think of? In the same way, if someone tells you not to look up at the sky, what do you do?
Fortunately, I didn’t go blind, nor was my vision damaged. But the experience reminded me of an important Old Testament truth: It’s dangerous for us sinners to see God—even to get too close to him.
In Genesis 32, for example, Jacob is grateful to be alive after he realizes that he had been wrestling all night with God. In Exodus 33, when Moses asks to see God’s glory, God shields Moses’ eyes when God’s glory passes by. Otherwise, God tells him, the experience would kill him. In Isaiah 6, the prophet Isaiah has a heavenly vision and shouts, “I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips!” He realizes that he is in God’s presence, and he knows that sinners can’t get close to God without being destroyed.
Something changed, however, when Jesus came. In his hymn “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” Charles Wesley describes it this way:
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with men to dwell
Jesus our Immanuel
Not only could humans get close to Jesus Christ—who is God-made-flesh—when he was on earth; now, because of Christ’s atoning death on the cross, we can be close to God all the time.
Remember what Christ did: He took our sins upon himself and suffered the penalty for them. (See 2 Corinthians 5:21.) He lived the life we were unable to live and died the death we deserved to die. In exchange, we who place our faith in Christ receive his righteousness as a gift.
From God’s perspective, then, it’s as if we’re no longer sinners at all. We are instead God’s beloved children.
Think of how much parents want to be close to their children. God desires that kind of relationship with you!