It’s Christmas Eve. Are you ready? Cookies baked, presents wrapped, house cleaned? Time to take a deep breath and enjoy the celebration.
But are you ready for Jesus? I don’t mean the tiny baby Jesus, serenely asleep in the manger. Christmas cards show us a clear sky with one humongous star shining over the scene. We ponder singing angels, shepherds bowing in front of the baby, and well-behaved animals. A peaceful scene, indeed. We like our tame Jesus in a tame tableau, and we are satisfied.
But Jesus, beginning with the events of his birth, is anything but tame.
Take the angels. We love the angels, which we have stylized into gorgeous womanish creatures with flowing hair, colorful brocade robes, and beautific smiles. The truth is we don’t know what angels look like. We know the response they get, though. In every Biblical account of God’s emissaries appearing to a human, the first reaction of the human is speechless terror. Angels are sent from the very presence of God, and bring with them some of his splendor and holiness, more than the humans can handle.
In the angel appearances surrounding the birth of Christ – Zechariah (John the Baptist’s father), the teen-aged Mary, the shepherds in the field – the angel’s first job is to calm down the cowering humans and let them know that God is not about to wipe them out, but is instead up to something magnificent.
Jesus isn’t tame, either. When the Baby Jesus grew up and begin his ministry, he shook up a lot of people. He turned perverted Jewish religion on its head, telling its leaders they were like whitewashed tombs, clean on the outside, but full of dead bones on the inside. He told his followers that the reason he came was so he could die. And furthermore, if they continued following him, they’d suffer, too. All this is rather shattering to the peaceful Nativity scene, until we understand who Jesus is.
The first chapter of John’s gospel is a masterfully stated theology of the incarnation. In verse 14 John says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The Greek word for “glory” is doxa. It means “dignity and honor, worthy of praise and worship.” This is who Jesus is. He shows us God’s glory, because he is himself God. But if all we saw in Jesus was God’s glory, it would be too much for us to bear. We’d know nothing but terror, much like those who saw angels. It would destroy us.
Thankfully, John puts grace and truth in the same sentence with glory. Jesus shows us God’s terrible, frightening glory, but he also shows us God’s grace and truth. This is our Savior – majestic, powerful, holy, packaged in grace and truth. He is everything.
Jesus out of the manger is someone to be reckoned with. He’s the Lion of Judah, the victorious Lamb of God, the King of Kings. Are you ready for him? Are you ready for the Jesus who will shake up your comfortable, sinful soul with searing truth as he remakes you? Are you ready for his incredible grace? Are you ready for the Jesus who will ask you to do hard things? Are you ready for the Jesus who will show you God’s glory?
Get ready. Jesus is here.