I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you might know… –– Ephesians 1:18a
The modern age prides itself on the clarity of its vision, on its farsightedness, on the depth and scope of its perception. But what is it that we really end up seeing?
Let me say it another way. If all we see when we look out on the world is the natural image of it, then our vision is stunted. If all we perceive when we consider its history is a sequence of facts and dates arranged in encyclopedic fashion, then our perception is shallow. We are like men who are given a picture of something and as we gaze at it we delude ourselves into thinking that we see the object as it really is. But what we really hold in our hands is a flat, two-dimensional representation devoid of depth and life. It is an image only, a ghost as it were of the thing that it represents. Again, it is as if we looked out on the surface of the ocean and in our pride named it as such without any notion of what really lies miles beneath in its depths. We pass off our cursory recognition of an appearance as a true depth of knowing. And these are the eyes of a natural man.
Come with me now to Christmas and look out on the panorama that presents itself and tell me what it is that you see. Tinsel and glitter? A light snow falling on a Salvation Army bell-ringer? Hustle and bustle and festive lights? Let your mind wax poetic for a moment, and then answer again. What do you see now? Good will and warm wishes? The love of family, warmth of a blazing hearth, or the strength of a new year’s resolution? Come with me now to Bethlehem, a step closer to the heart of the season. And what now do you see? A stable and some animals? Shepherds and flocks? A babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger? Even now, so close to the very center, we see so little.
Do we really know this season called Christmas? Do we hear creation pull in its breath as if it was waiting in anticipation for something magnificent to come to pass? Can we really sense the presence of angel choirs bending near to the earth? Can we see Heaven’s gates being readied to swing open to herald mankind’s restoration? Do we feel Satan start and tremble as something enters his world and shakes at its foundations?
If you see only with your eyes and perceive with that part of you that is natural, this season, in all its wonder, becomes like the most glorious story written down in bold letters of red and gold finely wrought, given vivid illustrations by the most skilled of artists, and bound up in a burnished tooled leather. You take it down each year, and gather your family around, and read the story aloud once more. The lines seem familiar, the story so intimate somehow. The flow of words, the collage of peoples and places flowing together catch the eye, but do they catch the heart? Close the book at season’s end, put it back on the shelf till next year. Life goes on as it always has.
The outcome is all too familiar in our world but, by the grace of God, may this year be different. May the Spirit of God move upon His people as He has never done before, and cause us to receive Christmas anew into our very beings. Open your heart, prepare your soul, purge your mind, and let the supernatural mystery of Emmanuel, God with us, penetrate to that depth where soul and spirit meet. Only then can the reality of God’s most precious gift be yours once more. Ask for it this year, God will surely not hold back this most glorious of gifts. My Christmas prayer for each of us this year is borrowed from St. Paul. I pray that the eyes of our hearts might be enlightened, for within the heart dwells the supernatural stuff of which each of us is made. It is only there that deep can call to deep. May our eyes be illumined with that Light which came into the world at Christmas, the True Light, the Life of men, the glory of the Only-begotten of the Father. Then step outside and lift you your head to the heavens and hear the angels once more sing with great rejoicing, for the tidings they proclaim are indeed a joy for all people. This night is born for you a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord.
Russell currently serves as an elder in the church. His own spiritual pilgrimage extends back almost 40 years and includes a sojourn in the Roman Catholic, American Baptist, Lutheran, Independent Charismatic, Independent Congregational, home fellowship, and Federated Congregational church settings. In these settings he has served as a catechist, bible teacher, independent school principal, outreach coordinator, and ordained pastor. His current life verse is Romans 1:15. “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you…”