At church this morning, one of the hymns that we sang was “As with Gladness, Men of Old.” It was about the wise men bringing gifts to the Christ child. Specifically, these lines stood out to me:
“As they offered gifts most rare
“At that manger rude and bare;
“So may we with holy joy,
“Pure and free from sin’s alloy,
“All our costliest treasures bring,
“Christ, to Thee, our heavenly King.”
“Holy Jesus, every day
“Keep us in the narrow way;
“And, when earthly things are past,
“Bring our ransomed souls at last
“Where they need no star to guide,
“Where no clouds Thy glory hide.”
Two themes captured my attention. The first theme was being pure and free from sin. The second theme was seeing Christ directly, in his unhidden glory.
Both are difficult concepts for me to imagine. Sinlessness? What would that even be like? We’re so imperfect. There’s always some selfishness or self-seeking within us, even if that is not the only or dominant aspect of our character. Seeing Christ’s full glory? How can one see the glory of an infinite God? To see God or Christ in their fullness would be to see infinity. Is that even possible?
Still, I can appreciate these concepts, on some level. Imagine loving God and neighbor at such a level that our ulterior motives are non-existent, or at least significantly lessened, and we need not worry about our pride, our lust, our pettiness, and our jealousies, for they do not dominate us or influence us. Imagine seeing more of God, and perhaps understanding where God is coming from.
The latter theme is significant to me because I often feel as if I do not know where God is coming from. In his sermon this morning, my pastor was referring to the Christmas tree beside him, and I thought about the anti-Christmas tree sermons that I heard as a child. God hates Christmas trees because they are pagan, I was told. I had a hard time understanding the perspective of such a God—-what made this God tick. I read the Bible, and God has wrath and love. I have difficulty understanding or knowing this God, the same way that I would know myself or a human being. Then again, do I even know what makes another human being tick? There is so much about another human being that I neither see nor know.