What happened in heaven on the day that Gabriel spoke to Mary? Gabriel said to her, “ ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.’ . . . ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God” (Luke 1:30-35, NRSV).
The majestic, glorious, and all-powerful member of the divine Trinity was about to become the Son for us and with us. He who was robed and resplendent in the dazzling light of heaven could see the dark and humiliating future that awaited Him on our broken planet. What must He have felt as He said goodbye to perfect and magnificent beings in heaven, who adored and worshipped Him? What went through His mind and heart as He and His beloved Father embraced before He disappeared into the silent darkness of Mary’s womb for nine months?
THE MYSTERY OF THE GOD-MAN
At the moment of conception He was alive in a new form, visible only to God. The Son of God was becoming the Son of Man. The infinitely old “I AM,” the Creator, was becoming a newly created baby. The Word was becoming flesh. The Light was coming to shine in the darkness. He was coming to His own, but would they receive Him? Would we receive Him?
God’s amazing gift to our world of His only beloved Son so that “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV) explodes the boundaries of what we can express by the word “love.” This is a kind of self-sacrificing unselfishness that’s not natural to us. It appears strange, foreign, and mysterious, but overpoweringly desirable as something that we once had but lost after the Fall. That Jesus Christ was willing to give up the glory and security of heaven, where He was one with God, and become a human being already shows unfathomable humility that rebukes our self-absorption.
Choosing to be born into poverty as the son of Mary and Joseph and growing up in a poor neighborhood of Nazareth demonstrates Christ’s humility. But His choice to display God’s full justice while granting full mercy by suffering the most degrading and cursed death on a cross goes beyond our human understanding of humility to something that words cannot express (Phil. 2:5, 8; Isa. 53:4, 5). By doing this, Jesus showed us what God’s love, which we are to emulate, is made of: “To do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8, NRSV).
THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
All things were created through Christ, the living Word (John 1:1-5). The first thing created on this earth by His word was light (Gen. 1:3). Light is necessary for human, animal, and plant life to exist. But we need more than physical light. We need the light of God’s love, the essence of His character (1 John 4:8, 16), which He shows to us through the life of His Son, “the light of the world” (John 9:5). “In him was life, and the life was the light of all people” (John 1:4, NRSV). This is the light that God wants to share with us through His Son, guiding us back to Him: the glorious brilliance of who He is. As Isaiah put it: “Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord” (Isa. 2:5, NIV). But the sharing of His glorious character (compare Ex. 34:6, 7) is more than showing—it is becoming. By experiencing Him—the source of light, which is love—we can reflect it from within us.
The radiant light of the Son is a blinding force that breaks through the encrusted, hardened heart of humanity. The murderous Saul of Tarsus was stunned by the light of Jesus Christ (Acts 22:6-8). In that blinding moment of encountering the One he had misjudged to be his enemy, the persecutor of Christ’s followers met his Savior. Saul was told to get up, and, as Isaiah prophesied that God’s people should, “Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you” (Isa. 60:1). In every encounter with Christ we experience the light of His love, which transforms us as it changed Saul, who became the apostle Paul. If we choose to live in Christ’s light as Paul did, our interactions with others will also be driven by God’s love, as John explains: “Anyone who loves their brother and sisters lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble” (1 John 2:10, NIV).
HIS LIGHT STILL SHINES TODAY
God’s light continues to shine today. At a very difficult time in my late teens God parted the heavens for a brief moment and spoke to me. I was riding in a rickshaw in Pune, India, on my way to town. My heart was heavy with a desperate need to know that God had not abandoned me. My face was upraised to God in prayer when I was suddenly surrounded and engulfed by the blazing glory of God’s presence in a visible and overwhelming encounter with the Divine. I heard God’s voice talking to me, not audibly, but clearly in my heart. I immediately recognized the indescribable, iridescent rays of light with the color of a pastel rainbow as the glorious presence of God. That encounter, a powerful outflowing of God’s love, has stayed with me ever since. It continues to be an assurance that God really does hear me when I cry to Him.
Christ invites us to join Him in reflecting His perfect light and love. He says, “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). In reflecting the light and love of the Son, we will let our light shine in such a way that others will know that we have been with Jesus. They will see the way we live, and they will glorify our heavenly Father, who is in heaven (cf. Matt. 5:16).