I was watching an interview recently of a Grammy Award winning pop singer/songwriter in which the pop star described with great passion his life-long pursuit of “this infinite unknown.” He said he considered his first relationship to have been with this “something greater” and how all other relationships have failed because of his devotion to this One. He went on to describe the addictive sensation of feeling like all of his music and song ideas were communicated to his conscious by this Unknown, an intimate-feeling relationship to be sure. But what struck me is that in this most intimate and life-long of relationships for this man, this Something Greater is still entirely unknown to him. What mortal loneliness.
The words immediately call to mind a story in Acts of Paul preaching to people in Athens where he has come across an altar to “an Unknown God.” He says he has come to tell them about this God who has made Himself known through a Man He has appointed, “and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).
Christmas is the celebration of God having made Himself known. The Incarnation is identification at its fullest. One of the church fathers, Tertullian, said, “No more complete revelation of God’s empathic love is possible than this: that God shares our human frame, participates in our human limitations, enters our human sphere.” (see Hebrews 2:18 and 4:14-16). The Incarnation is revelation at its clearest. John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.” In Jesus, God identifies fully with humanity and has fully revealed to us what divinity looks like. Humans wonder, “What is God really like?” Christmas answers, God has fully revealed both what He is like and what we are meant to be. Even those who hear of Jesus (and might think he is wonderful!) might ask, “Will God really turn out to be like Jesus?” Jesus is nice, but what if God is mean? Hallelujah that in Jesus God has revealed all of Himself. This is the miracle of Christmas. T. F. Torrance once said, “…God is indeed really like Jesus, and there is no unknown God behind the back of Jesus for us to fear; to see the Lord Jesus is to see the very face of God.”
I invite you to look into the face of a loving Savior this Advent season and see the very face of God. See the face of Emmanuel, the God who is with us and has made Himself known, the God who loves you more than I could possibly imagine.