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Summary: We tend to see only what we expect to see, and thus at Christmas we do not see the glory and majesty of the Christ child in the homeless, the downtrodden, the ashamed.

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They say that "seeing is believing". Well, that depends. That depends on whether you can trust your eyesight. And it depends on whether you have decided to see what is really there or just what you think is there.

"Seeing is believing." It depends on whether you can trust your eyesight. My mother-in-law is suffering from macular degeneration; that means that a small structure in the eyes has declined and her vision is often blurred. She says that one of the greatest frustrations she has is that she cannot read people's faces; she can hear what you are saying, but if you are across the room, she cannot see your face well enough to read your expression. And so she does not feel she really knows what you are saying, even though she can hear the words perfectly. "Seeing is believing" only if you can trust your eyesight to read what is happening.

And seeing is believing, too, only if you see what is really there and not what you think will be there. Optical illusions occur because our minds fill in things that are not really there.

A couple of weeks ago my wife was using a game with some of her students. It was a little like a crossword puzzle: you were supposed to guess a variety of Christmas words from various clues. One of the clues seemed to be nothing more than a printout of the alphabet. What Christmas word would that suggest? What Christmas word would you get from a clue that just read "abcdefghijkmnopqrstuvwxyz"? Did anybody get it? "No L". Noel, No "L", abcdefghijk … m. But the mind tends to fill in what the eye expects to see, or the ear expects to hear.

"Seeing is believing" is true only if you choose to see what is really there, not what you expected to see.

As the apostle Peter neared the end of his life and career, he began to fear that some of Christians were about to lose sight of reality. He began to sense that their central, keystone commitment, their core confession was about to get lost. Peter began to worry that, of all things, these folks were losing sight of who Jesus Christ is.

In the passage I've read for you, Peter speaks about people being "blind" and "shortsighted". He is afraid they will forget some key realities. And so Peter, in a pungent phrase, calls Christians to rivet their attention on exactly who Jesus Christ is and what He is like. Peter insists that when he taught them about Christ, he was teaching no myth, nor was he promoting an optical illusion. Peter insists, on the contrary, that he and his fellow believers were "eyewitnesses of majesty".

Hear the key text again: "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. "

"Eyewitnesses of majesty" The trouble is that eyewitnesses don’t always see everything there is to see; the trouble is, too, that even eyewitnesses sometimes see only what they expect to see.

I

Beneath the tinsel and the golden glow of Christmas there is one and only one central message, and that is Incarnation, enfleshment. The central fact of Christmas is that the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld, we saw, His glory.


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