Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Holy Spirit Eyes

However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him—1 Corinthians 2:9

Christmas is always such a feast for the senses. Lights and decorations fill our sight, along with TV specials and movies. Christmas carols, bells, and the sounds of hustle and bustle fill our ears. We indulge ourselves in the taste of food and drink that would be too rich for us any other time of year. And yet the better experience of Christmas is in the less tangible love shared with family and friends. We are so easily caught up in the physical, material aspects of life, especially at Christmas, but during the holidays we also seem to have a greater capacity for experiencing the intangible and the supernatural. We expect a sort of magic at Christmas, and it does seem as we’re out encountering the world running from store to store that we let down the walls that usually separate us. We connect with strangers over the shared experience of preparing for Christmas. At our house, Christmas movies are an important part of our tradition, and these will include sappy feel-good movies that we wouldn’t dream of watching most other times of the year. After the holidays are over, those heartwarming Christmas stories lose their appeal and we’re back to our usual action and adventure fare.

I think that’s what we really like so much about Christmas. Unlike any other time of the year, it’s ok to believe the unbelievable, and to talk about extraordinary things like how Santa comes. We hardly believe that peace on earth is possible most of the rest of the year, but at Christmas it seems so much more like a reasonable expectation.

Maybe we’re missing an opportunity here—or maybe we’re not, depending on how you celebrate Christmas. Wouldn’t this be the best time of year to connect with people who wouldn’t even give you the time of day the rest of the year? And to renew relationships that have gotten stale? We don’t talk to our neighbors all that much normally, this is the season when we notice them more.

In my devotional reading this morning, Isaiah asks, “Do you not know? Have you not heard?” (Isaiah 40:21, 28) He focuses entirely on what we learn from hearing—no mention of seeing. Seeing requires a physical presence on which to rest our eyes, but hearing is less tangible. Hearing requires words—telling. We call people who tell about something “eye witnesses” because we assume they have seen something, but Isaiah is taking about something that cannot be seen. Still, the truth can be told and heard—“The Lord is an everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 40:28). We can see God’s creation all around us, but knowing that he is the one who made it involves words. Telling. Hearing.

Sure, we doubt. The shepherds had to go see for themselves that what the angel had told them was true. Thomas wanted to feel Jesus wounds before he would believe that Jesus had really risen from the dead. And I think God knows we have this need, and he gives us signs. In our modern cynicism we so often fail to notice them. More importantly, we aren’t looking for them. But God says that if we seek him with all our hearts we will find him (Deut. 4:29; Prov. 8:17; Jer. 29:13; Matt. 7:7). We have to be willing to believe what seems unbelievable. Not like we believe that Santa can get to every child in the world in one night. This is a deeper belief, one that our own hearts will confirm if we’re willing to listen. And one that we’ll be able to see more and more as long as we allow ourselves to see with Holy Spirit eyes. What is God showing you through the Holy Spirit today?

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