Window of God
Icons are common in our society. They can be celebrities that have transcended their personal identity and become representative depictions of their field. Mention “Gretzky” and we automatically think hockey. But there are more icons in our culture than superstars. A picture of an Apple makes you think of computers. A Green Giant points to peas and corn. And of course, a cross on a building or necklace is filled with meanings of faith. Icons are all around us and they are ancient. The church has used icons long before they were commercially popular. Religious symbols and images convey deep truths and evoke spiritual responses. Some suggest that the church latched on to this form of communication to speak to illiterate congregants. While true, the reason goes deeper. Icons have been the way of God.
Skim through the Old Testament and you will find it saturated with icons. A burning bush or a white dove. The rod of Moses. The tablets of stone. The ark of the covenant. They all speak louder than is at first obvious. But, nothing is more profound than the ultimate Icon God has given us. At the start of his gospel John writes, “No one has ever seen God. The only God who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known.” (Jn.1:18) No one has ever seen God, nor can we see God. God is without form and clothed in a brilliant blaze of glory. We may observe the works of God or the effects of God, but we are blind and deaf to His being. Since God is hidden behind the impenetrable door of creation, God opened the door and stepped in. Jesus has come. He has come to make God known. The Son is the full communication of who God is. He is the window through which we see our Creator. Only Jesus can say without exaggeration or qualification, “Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.” (Jn.14:9) So, we do well to look at Jesus in the Gospels.
What is God like? There is no need for us to guess or imagine. We can go deeper than the silent witness of nature. Divine metaphors and mystery are fleshed out for us by the Bethlehem birth of this Child. God is now unveiled in Jesus. The Words of Christ are the Words of God. The behaviour of Jesus declares the actions of God. The heart of Jesus is the heart of God. God is tender with the infirm, hospitable to outsiders, forgiving to the fallen, bold with hypocrites, gentle with dull disciples and weeps for the lost or dead. God does not use His power as window dressing. He is not swayed by popular opinions. He is in no rush, but neither will His timing or purpose be denied. Most of all, God does battle with darkness and achieves victory through the experience of defeat. God is willing to be falsely accused, beaten beyond measure, mocked, humiliated and then lay upon bloody wooden beams to die. Whatever you thought God to be; it was not like this. But Jesus has dispelled the fog of our conjectures. This is the way of God; for this is the way of Jesus.
Carols and cards will tell the nativity story. Manger scenes, angelic choirs, shepherds and wise men have all become Christmas icons for our remembering and celebrations. But do not allow the lesser icons to hide the greater Icon. God has come. We have seen Him.