Take a moment to become still, aware of God’s presence, and then pray:
O Emmanuel, God-with-us, You know intimately the trouble and heartache of our world and of our lives. Breathe the quiet calm of Your Spirit over us, and ready our hearts to listen. Silence every voice but Your voice so that we might hear words of life and love. Amen
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth…No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
John 1:14, 18
A young British soldier, barely twenty years old, lay dying on a hill in Italy during the Second World War. A young chaplain from the King’s Royal Rifle Corps bent over him, listening closely as the dying man looked up at him, imploring: “Tell me Padre, is God really like Jesus?”
The chaplain assured the dying soldier that God was indeed just like Jesus, the only God there is, the God who came down and dwelt among us, pouring out His love for us as Savior. The chaplain then prayed, commending the dying man to Jesus. From that experience he vowed to tell the world that God is really like Jesus. That chaplain, Thomas Torrance, went on to become one of the world’s preeminent theologians and a leader in the Church of Scotland. He felt compelled to tell the good news of God’s love revealed in Jesus.
It was natural that the dying soldier wondered about God as today’s scripture acknowledges, “No one has ever seen God.” Saint Augustine recognized this truism centuries ago, writing: “No one has ever grasped the fullness of God, not by the eyes of the body, not even the mind itself… No one has seen the fullness of his deity.” (Fathers of the Church: St. Augustine: Letters, Vol. 3) This is the simple admission that the ineffable, boundless God of heaven and earth is beyond our fondest dreams or imaginations. The apostle Paul bowed in wonder before God, ascribing praise to “he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see…”(1 Timothy 6:16).
Yet, the Gospel good news in today’s scripture is that the eternal Son of God, the Word, became flesh, dwelt among us, and made God known to us. The phrase, “made him known,” translates the Greek word exegesato, from which we get the word “exegesis”. Just as exegesis is the explanation of a text, so Jesus is the explanation of God to the world, revealing God’s nature and essence to all. From Jesus’ humble birth to ascension in glory, He is God. Thus, Jesus reassures, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). He reveals to us the very heart and innermost being of God. Jesus does not leave us guessing what God is like.
This is seen in today’s scripture which reveals Jesus as “close to the Father’s heart”. I was raised on the King James Bible that beautifully translated this “in the bosom of the Father”. Both the King James and today’s version are translations of the Greek word, kolpos, which expresses the closest imaginable intimacy with someone. The Septuagint, or ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, uses kolpos to signify the closest, most intimate relationship between two people. Thus, Jesus is “the Son of God sent into this world of ours by His heavenly Father to reveal to us what He experiences from all eternity in His intimate life with the Father” (George Maloney, Entering into the Heart of Jesus)
Jesus acknowledges that no one knows the Father like He knows Him: “No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27). But then, in the next verse Jesus invites “all” to share with Him in that most intimate of all relationships: “Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Yes! Learn from Jesus, 100% human and 100% divine, what God is like, for He is “gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” What wonderful news for that young dying soldier. What wonderful news for you and for me this Christmas!
Think back over the past 24 hours and note when you experienced a “high” and a “low”. Share with God how the humanity of Jesus might speak to you in what you experienced.