As I was working on my next installment in the Temples series, I came across an interesting subject of meditation: the fact that the divine nature of Christ was, on its own, hidden. Don’t get me wrong, many people were interested in Jesus from their very first meeting with him, but to go so far as to grasp his deity… well, nobody got it without help.
Mary and Joseph were told about Jesus the Messiah by the angel Gabriel. Zechariah prophesied for his son, John, to go and be the Messiah’s precursor, preaching the advent of Jesus so people would follow him when he started his ministry. Jesus himself had to reveal his identity as the Word made flesh through his teachings and through miracles, and even his apostles didn’t all quite get it until after the resurrection. The only folks who seemed to know who Jesus was immediately were Satan and a couple demon-possessed people.
And it occurs to me that this is still very much true today. Christ is spiritually with us where two or three are gathered, as well as in the heart of all who believe in him. Christ is sacramentally with us in the bread and the cup. Christ is even in the poor, sick, and needy whom we serve. But are any of these proofs that we can use in apologetics? Are any of these literally observable and verifiable? No, only the eyes of faith can discern the presence of Christ in worship gatherings. Only spiritual discernment can see Christ in life’s events, miraculous and mundane alike. Only a heart filled with the love of God can see Christ in the poor, the sick, and the needy.
I’ve spent so much time this season pursuing (and preaching) the advent of Christ in the Christ-mass (celebrating his birth) and in the future return of Christ, that I almost forgot about his spiritual advents in our hearts, in those whom we serve, and so on. All of these require faithful appropriation, whether Jesus’ presence is objective or subjective, and I confess I’ve been rather narrow-minded of late. Jesus avails himself to us in so many ways, and I suspect we’re all guilty of picking and choosing our favorites and forgetting about the rest. I suppose the nice thing about observing the Christian calendar is that it gives us opportunities to encounter Christ from different angles that we might have otherwise neglected.
Nevertheless, we must pursue Christ in faith. Faith is first of all a gift that God gives us; secondly, faith is a virtue that we must nurture and grow; so that thirdly, faith becomes a power that we can wield with prayer and action. Having faith makes the difference between recognizing our Messiah, and missing the boat. As John the Baptizer said,
I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.