“The Word became flesh. … We have seen his glory.” (John 1:14)
A hot, muggy morning. A storm beginning to brew. Our family boarded a plane out of Mumbai headed to New Delhi – then on to Amsterdam. Our years in India – filled with soul-altering experiences for parents and children alike – were drawing to a close. This plane flight the beginning of our journey to a new life in Canada.
We took off, the turbulent air giving quite a ride, as the big jet struggled into the sky. The Captain soon announced that we were diverting. New Delhi was swallowed-up in a dust storm. We were unable to land. After a long delay, we continued on, descending into Delhi through an eerie dust-filled haze onto a tarmac we could barely see.
We took off again, our journey now taking us over the Middle East – looking down from cloudless blue skies onto desert – empty stretches of sand and barren mountains fading into the horizon. It was as if our whole world was consumed by heat and haze. That nothing else existed but the barren lands below.
Our plane finally reached Europe – blanketed in thick cloud – obscuring the view. We began our descent into Amsterdam – down – down – down – seeing nothing. Just short of the runway we broke through into a world so green that an audible gasp skittered across the passengers. All we had known was heat – haze – barrenness. It seemed as if that’s all there was. Now our eyes showed us a vibrantly different world. Seeing really is believing.
You know, we “see things” in so many different ways. Sometimes, like in the story I just shared, seeing can be a very concrete experience – about confirming with our sight that something is real – overcoming doubts we might have. “I would never have believed it,” we say, “unless I’d seen it with my own eyes!” Like believing that there is so much more than heat and haze – once we set our eyes on a vision of green.
But “seeing” can also provide illumination for the way: identifying landmarks as we travel through life – that lead us on – with a sure sense of where we’re going. Illumination that reveals the lost as found. Like what I experienced when I was ten years old, while attending a residential school in Kodaikanal, India. Hiking is a popular pastime in Kodaikanal, a town nestled in rugged, jungle-covered mountains.
Once a half-dozen of us got separated from the rest on a hike during a nasty rain storm. We spent hours literally lost in the wilds – cold and drenched – until finally recognizing a landmark. “Ah! Now we see where we are. Let’s go home!” Seeing is believing that we can find our way home.
The illumination that comes with “really seeing” can go even deeper still. It’s the source of great discoveries – those incredible moments when someone “sees” how things work in a whole new way and innovatively “visions” a vastly different future. It’s the source of all learning when, having wrestled in our minds with a complicated problem or big idea, we finally “see” our way forward. Wonder-filled moments that bust open our horizons to new vistas. “Wow! Can you look at that! I never saw it that way before.” Seeing is believing that we can discover and learn – and always grow.
But how does God “see” us?
Advent shows us how: “The Word became flesh. … We have seen his glory.” God sees people – you and me – as worth visiting “in the flesh” so that we can “see his glory” up-close-and-personal. In a beautiful world made whole again. Through the gift of a Son who offers peace and reconciliation all the way down to the toes of our souls. Deep down well-being. Shalom.
Now some might say of course that this isn’t “seeing” at all. It’s just an illusion that obscures real sight. Well, my neighbourhood friends might have a thing or two to say about that. They are the poor of the world – casually disregarded, largely ignored. Yet when these forgotten people meet up with God’s glory in Jesus, everything can change. As they discover a God who – does not disregard, nor ignore, nor forget – but in fact loves them. A God so deeply interested in them, in fact, that he offers the gift of a child born and a son given. A God who so completely believes in them, that they begin to see themselves as special, too.
Seeing people come alive in God’s love is believing that your life can wonderfully change, too.
Advent is over. And we are on the edge of Christmas. The waiting is finished. The dream is now real. God’s thoughtful gift is here: his glory revealed for us to see in a child born and a son given. That we might believe. And be changed.
Will you see and believe, this Christmas?
- Pastor John