“Perfection in rags.” That was how my friend Justyn Rees described the incarnation of Christ this last week. Brilliant. Inspiring. Worthy of our worship. Glorious. Jesus – fully divine, fully human and the greatest example of what life to the fullest looks like.
It reminded me of one of my favourite advent passages – John 1:1-18. This prelude to John’s telling of the good news of Jesus reflects the themes he expands upon through the gospel. He highlights the deity and the humanity of Christ, as well as the proclamation of creation and the recreation of a people of God. John’s gospel is full of well-known lines that we quote often. “In the beginning was the word…,” and as Eugene Peterson put it, “And God moved into the neighbourhood.” But the line that continually jumps out at me is, “And we beheld His glory.”
John, Jesus’ self-declared best friend, has seen the Christ – the image of God, humanity at its best. He has gazed upon the answer to the promises of God to his people for all generations. But John knows that gazing upon the Son’s glory (perfection in rags) means that he is compelled to live in the same manner. So are all who gaze upon His glory. We bear witness to the God who put on flesh in everything we do.
What does this mean for us practically? Here are a few things that have brought me both encouragement and challenge in this text.
1. Discernment – “Looking for Christ” – Jesus has become flesh and moved into the neighbourhood. Our task is to pay attention to where we see Him at work in our neighbourhoods. The practice of discernment is one of the most important missional things we could do in our generation.
2. Worship – At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, the disciples followed Christ’s instructions and went to Galilee to meet Jesus. When they saw Him, they worshipped Him. This is the response, if not the only response then the best response, when we see Jesus. We recognize His glory and cannot help but worship Him. This too is a missional component.
3. Formation – As we see Him and worship Him, our call is to be like Him. We enter into practices that shape us into the image and character of Christ, so that we too bear witness to the Father. This is a deep and important aspect of being on mission with God.
4. Sent – As Christ (the Word) was sent by the Father, so we too are sent into neighbourhoods to join God in mission. We have become the body of Christ and are privileged to participate with Him on mission.
5. Bearing Witness – Moses came down the mountain after meeting with God and reflected His glory. Part of being on mission with God is the recognition that we are to be reflectors of this glory that we behold.
As we wait for the Christ, remembering His first coming and awaiting the second, may we look for evidence of His presence in our midst and reflect His glory in every way.