By His precious blood, He has redeemed captive Israel and He has redeemed us.
“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29
Christmas is perhaps one of my favorite times of the year in part because of the moments in which I am able to spend time with people I cherish. While it is my favorite season, it’s not always the easiest, and maybe you would agree. Have you ever constructed an image in your mind of what the perfect Christmas should look like? Every year as the Holiday season approaches, I do.
Imagine, beginning December 1st, my children wake up and attentively sit quietly while I weave a beautiful picture of the advent story into our devotion time (there’s even as awesome craft or baked goody to accompany the lesson). None of the greenery adorning my home sheds a single pine needle. All of the light bulbs on the house stay lit instead of one section dying on the highest eave. The kids don’t wake up Christmas morning yelling at one another. We all sleep in. Everyone is happy. No one is sick. No one is angry. There are no awkward family dynamics, discipline issues or hurt feelings. I can eat all the cocktail weenies and meatballs I want without judgment or added inches to my waist.
Every year I create this ideal picture of Christmas in my mind while simultaneously determining that I am going to remain Christ-focused. Every year, as January approaches I look back and ask myself, “why was it so difficult to remain Christ-centered on Jesus this Christmas?” The LORD has shown me that I have made an idol of a fantasy instead of beholding Jesus Christ and making Him my treasure. Yahweh has stripped me of my arrogant confidence that I am in some way superior to the idolatrous, grumbling nation of Israel seen In the book of Exodus.
Recently, my family took a trip to Disneyworld. Twice, we stayed until closing at Magic Kingdom to watch their nightly projection show. IT WAS SPECTACULAR! As you watch the perfectly timed projections, lights, and fireworks, you begin to feel immersed in this magical world of fantasy. You begin to forget that your feet are tired, you are dripping with sweat, and you are sandwiched in between thousands of others with the same body odor. You forget because you are in such awe. Your gaze is fixed on a marvelous spectacle; it is truly a sight to behold. This is often what happens to me at this time of year. I set my sight upon things that appear fantastical, but they do not compare to the surpassing greatness of my Lord and Savior. Maybe for a brief moment, I am transfixed by Jesus Christ, but my sight soon wavers the moment I become exhausted or disappointed from unmet expectations. My focus becomes centered on the temporal not the eternal, and I’m left struggling and disappointed. I am discontented because ultimately the things of this earth will not bring me lasting joy, lasting peace or lasting love.
Paul says in Philippians 3:7-8, “But whatever gain I had, bI counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Paul understood that knowing and enjoying Jesus Christ is imperative to our daily walk as a believer. When we lose sight of this vital Truth we’re left fantasizing and chasing after idols. We begin to covet the homes of our neighbors, compare our failures to the successes of others, or, in my case, bemoan the fact that my favorite Holiday season did not play out beautifully like a Hallmark movie.
In Exodus, we find a nation that cannot seem to keep their eyes fixed on Almighty God, even when He is visibly present. He never left His people, yet the moment their circumstances became overwhelming, challenging, or merely an inconvenience, their eyes shifted away from the LORD, and they were left struggling and disappointed. Their lack of trust was met with an abundance of God’s grace. In the midst of their journey, God allowed the Israelites to witness His Brilliance and Majesty in spite of their grumblings and wayward hearts. Exodus 16:10 says, “ It came about as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the sons of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.”
Behold is a unique word, isn’t it? Most of us don’t use this word in our daily speech. To behold something means “To gaze upon.” To behold is not to merely see with the eyes; but, to intently observe most often the beauty and wonder of an object.
The etymology of beholding suggests that it is to “possess, guard or preserve.” It’s used 1,298 times in the original KJV. Most often, it is used by God to tell His people what He is about to do. For the believer, to behold means to intently fix our eyes upon the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). It is to turn our eyes from ourselves and to cast them towards the One who is full of Glory. The One who is infinitely more valuable than bread and water and more magnificent than a Disney castle. The One who came to take away the sin of the world! John 1:29 says, “The next day he (John) saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John was calling attention to the One who is full of Glory; the One who redeemed us; the One our eyes should behold, not only at Christmas but every day.
As the Christmas season approaches, we will adorn our homes with lights and decorations, place nativity scenes upon the mantle and sing songs of our Savior’s birth. Maybe we will eat more sweets than our waistlines prefer. But, what if we remember that on the night of Jesus’ birth, God was announcing His fulfillment of the covenant He made with Abraham? “In your seed, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed because you have obeyed My voice.” (Genesis 22:18) What if we remember that God came down and allowed us to behold His glory? “The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have beheld his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) What if we, like Mary, ponder all that took place in Bethlehem (Luke 2:19), and weigh the cost of obtaining the world’s greatest treasure (Matthew 13:44-45)? What if we, like the Wise men, stop what we are doing, acknowledge the King of Kings and humbly bow down in worship (Matthew 2:11)?
Through a helpless baby, born to a virgin girl, in the distinct line of Abraham, all people would be blessed. Each one of us has received the same opportunity to obtain this blessing by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12) We have beheld His glory and can continue to do so as we abide in His presence and dwell on what is true and eternal, not what is imaginary and fleeting. We also have the same opportunity to proclaim God’s greatness and declare the Gospel to the nations!
My family attended the Nighttime Spectacular at Magic Kingdom for a particular reason; because two members of our party missed their opportunity to view the magnificent spectacle on our first evening at Disney. I was enchanted and could not contain my excitement, so I eagerly told them, “you have to see it! It’s worth it! You won’t regret it!” Even though you may have to wait patiently and hold your ground, even though it can become uncomfortable and exhausting, and even though you may have to listen to the grumblings of countless individuals–it’s worth what you get to behold! As we gaze intently at the beauty and majesty of Jesus Christ, we will not be able to keep the splendor of His Glory to ourselves. The lavish grace of our Redeemer should motivate us eagerly proclaim the Good News and long for the broken and weary to behold their Savior.
So, if your circumstances begin to cause your eyes to wander this Christmas, Behold! He is not merely a helpless baby lying in a manger; but, the Lamb of God, Your Messiah, and Conquering King.
As you string up your holiday lights this year, Behold! He is the Light of the World! “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
As you adorn your Christmas trees with decorations and place a star as a crown upon the top, Behold! He has been crowned King of Kings. “ But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:9)
As you bake holiday treats or tirelessly spend Christmas morning preparing to host family for dinner, Behold! He is your Sustenance. Your manna. “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)
As you are feeling the emptiness or loneliness of not being able to embrace a loved one this Christmas, Behold! He is your Comfort. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)
As you begin to experience anxiety over the countless activities filling your calendar or the uncertainty that you will be able to share another Christmas with a loved one, Behold! He is the Prince of Peace. His “peace which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds.” (Philippians 4:7)
As you are wrapping beautifully adorned gifts, Behold! He is Immanuel, God With Us. His presence is infinitely more valuable than presents. “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us)”. (Matthew 1:23)
My precious sisters, because He is Immanuel (God With Us), we can worship. This is the glorious news that we get to proclaim to the nations, that Jesus is Immanuel! By His precious blood, He has redeemed captive Israel and He has redeemed us. No matter our present situation, there is one Truth that does not change. Jesus Christ is the most lavish gift offered to us and His worth is immeasurably more precious than anything else in all of Creation. So, how should we respond? As we behold Him, let’s humble ourselves and Worship! “I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.” (Psalm 86:12)