For all that I’ve been a decorating grinch this year, I do adore Christmas carols—especially the old classics we used to sing by candlelight in my childhood church. I love the soaring melodies of “Angels We Have Heard on High” and the haunting minor chords of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” and I know pretty much all the words by rote. But I guess I’ve never given much thought to how much theology is packed into those songs.
Take “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” as a case in point. Here are a couple of lines from the second verse:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Way back in Exodus, Moses begged God, “Show me your glorious presence” (Exodus 33:18). But God said there was no way Moses would be able to take in so much glory, so much holiness, and live to tell about it. “You may not look directly at my face,” he told Moses, “for no one may see me and live.”
God’s radiance is simply too much for sinful, broken human beings to gaze on without their hearts instantly stopping in their chests. When Moses made his bold request, God told him that the closest he could get was to see the Lord’s backside. He hid Moses in the cleft of the rock, covering him with his own hand. It wasn’t until God had already passed by that he removed his hand so Moses could catch of a glimpse of his glory from behind. But getting to look at God’s face? No way.
That’s why the Incarnation—God himself wrapped in human skin—is such a profound mystery.
Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God.
Jesus is God’s glory in human form. For thousands of generations, people longed to see him, to catch a glimpse of his glory, but the most they were able to access was his backside. But now, through the Incarnation, we can come face-to-face with God…and live to tell about it.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see…
As we think about the baby in the manger this Christmas, let us gaze with eyes of wonder as we look at the glorious face of God.
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”
I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.