“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).
Dr. Paul Brand’s mother did not live a typical life. Though she was born in a magnificent, mahogany trimmed house in London, she settled for a portable hut, eight feet square, for her home. Though once people told her she looked like an actress, her face was weathered by the sun, toughened into a leathery texture. For the last twenty years of her life she refused to keep a mirror in her home. She suffered frequently from malaria and walked with a limp because of injuries she had sustained in a fall. Yet, when her son, a doctor, asked her to come live with him, she replied, “If I leave, who will help the village people? Who will treat their wounds and pull their teeth and teach them about Jesus? Why preserve this old body if it’s not going to be used where God needs me?” She is practically unknown in the world. One would hardly consider her life glorious.
We seldom associate glory with characteristics like humility, poverty, kindness, or sacrifice. Glory belongs to the powerful, not to those who serve others. Glory belongs to the aggressive who take what they want and promote their own cause, not to those who quietly spend their time making life better for others. Glory belongs to those who possess obscene wealth, not to those who barely enjoy the minimum necessities of life.
But God views things differently, and so do his people. Why have the events of Christmas received so much attention? Why have so many artists been inspired to portray the events of this night on canvass? Why have so many musicians been moved to compose their songs of praise and joy for this occasion? Where is the glory that makes Jesus’ birth so special?
The answer to these questions is this: The glory of Jesus’ birth is not merely the greatness of someone like the woman whom I described before, someone who is willing to put aside her own comfort to help others. The glory of Jesus birth is that all the glory of heaven–the glory of God himself– has come to live with us in the form of this helpless child born to this homeless family. Here we see God’s love for us in all its glory, God’s love with us in all its glory, in the events described by Luke, explained by John, and proclaimed in the songs we sing this season. Here God’s greatness and his closeness meet. Here the glorious God stoops to save us. As this glory inspires our awe and reverence this Christmas, may it also assure us of his incomparable love.