25 December, 2014 Richard Simpkin
We’ve been studying 2 Corinthians in our Bible study group this term, and I’ve been struck by the privilege that we all have as Christians, as we hold the treasure of the Gospel message in our hearts. There is strong incarnation language in 2 Corinthians 4:6, where Paul talks about the glory of God:
‘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 Christ.’
Here, Paul is comparing the glory of God that was reflected in the face of Moses (which was veiled to its beholders because of its fading nature) with the glory of God that is reflected in the face of Christ. The glory reflected in the face of Christ is unveiled, unfading, and far more glorious than even the dramatic experiences witnessed at the burning bush, the Passover, the Red Sea, Sinai, the giving of the Ten Commandments and even the experience of the presence of the Lord above the Ark of the Covenant in the tabernacle. These were truly glorious, but ‘if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!’ (2 Corinthians 3:7).
Therefore, as visitors huddle into cold church buildings, and as we make the best of singing carols that frankly we’re a bit bored with, we are actually reflecting a more glorious message than even the thundering and fire of Mount Sinai.
As we sing ‘Veiled in flesh the Godhead see! Hail the incarnate Deity!’ from Hark the Herald angels sing, we are inviting the people present to wonder at the glory of God seen in the face of Christ. This is the very same God who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ as his glorious creation sprang to life. As we sing these words, we need to be praying that God would remove the veil from the eyes of the blind so that they too would be able to ‘see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’ (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Similarly, as we sing, ‘He came down to Earth from Heaven, who is God and Lord of all’ from Once in Royal David’s City, we are once again urging lost people with hard hearts to bow their knees to the child, so dear and gentle who is our Lord in Heaven above.
And how much more would the passionate urgency of these words from It came upon the midnight clear be reflected in our faces if we knew the power of the truth that God has proclaimed peace between Him and His people: ‘O hush the noise, you men of strife, and hear the angels sing’?
So often our carol services end with O come all ye faithful, with its triumphant call to adore Christ the Lord (and because it has such a majestic descant in the last verse!) but how much more powerful – if less majestic – would it be to finish on this invitation: ‘O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin and enter in; be born in us today’ (from O Little Town of Bethlehem) or even ‘Sinners, wrung with true repentance, doomed for guilt with endless pains, justice now revokes the sentence, mercy calls you – break your chains’ (from Angels from the realms of glory)?
Many of these words are dangerously familiar to us. Familiarity is dangerous because we can be tempted to be tired and bored by the Gospel message entrusted to us. No wonder that our visitors only come once a year! The Gospel message should never be boring to those ‘who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory’ (2 Corinthians 3:18), and it certainly couldn’t be boring to those with blind eyes for whom the veil is finally lifted.
This Christmas, let’s make it our prayer that the Lord of creation will use jars of clay like us to belt out the glorious Gospel message; and that, in doing so, many of those who are in the dark will come face to face with the glory of God in the face of Christ – as that darkness is turned to glorious light that will never fade.
Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton, a division of Hodder Headline Ltd. All rights reserved.