Last week I drove from Newberg to Springfield in the early hours of the morning. Starting in the pre-dawn darkness, I watched the sky slowly grow light. It was a clear Oregon morning, cold enough for the traffic on I-5 to be slower than usual. I had the radio tuned to my favorite classical station.
At one point, a Beethoven piano piece filled the car. As I drove through the dawning day, the mountains etched against the sunrise, I worshiped. But after a while I unconsciously slipped from worship into a day dream. When I came to, I realized that in my mind, I was playing that piano concerto to an admiring audience. Not only was my music incredibly beautiful, I myself was gorgeous, but humbly unmindful of my great charm. It gets worse. The printed program informed people that, when not giving award-winning concerts, I made my living as a brain surgeon and donated six months of every year to medical missions in Afghanistan.
As I said, “when I came to” I hope I blushed. I don’t remember that part. I don’t often go into these adolescent reveries, but when I discover myself caught up in one, the only remedy is to laugh. That and the Jesus prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”).
But after an appropriate time of repentance, an insight came to me there in the car. I realized that my day dream reflected a longing for glory and that it was not entirely negative. Glory, not so much in the sense of fame and recognition, but rather deep desire to be an active participant in something significant, excellent, beautiful and—well—glorious. Is not this part of our inherited nature as persons created in the image of God?
The next thought that swam through my mind as I continued driving down the freeway was a phrase from the New Testament—“Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Yes. Beethoven, the sunrise colors, the Holy Spirit there in the dawn of the day all whispered and my spirit responded, “Yes! That’s it. It’s Jesus.”
The theme of glory runs through the Christmas story: the star, the angels proclaiming in music that would probably put Beethoven to shame, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and good will to all people.” And at Christmas, it certainly all comes down to Jesus. One of my favorite Christmas passages, John’s description of the incarnation, tells us, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Christ with us. Christ in us. Christ in me—in you—the hope of glory. That’s my Christmas gift this year.