Read Isaiah 40:9
Seared in my memory forever are the first moments of seeing each of my children after they were born. Each of these times, it was as though the world stood still, time stopped, and love invaded my life in a way I didn’t know was possible. The weeks following any given child’s birth, I can remember Kelly and I just staring at our baby. It was like we had a new hobby: staring contests with the object being our new baby. Like people sit around a campfire listening to its crackling and staring at its magnificence, we looked at our children, staring intently — hoping not to miss a single sound, movement, or potentially funny glance. There’s something captivating and mesmerizing about the miracle of life.
There’s a comfort and energy in the act of beholding. That may be why the prophet Isaiah wrote, “Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’” (Isaiah 40:9, emphasis mine). Isaiah’s command is to behold – to look intently and absorb. Mary understood this calling. After recording the birth of Christ, Luke wrote, “But Mary treasured all these things up, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). One gets the picture of Mary taking time to stare into the marvelous mystery – seeing past the baby and into the fact that she was holding the savior of the world. She stopped, she pondered, and she treasured. She beheld, and it changed her!
The Advent season is a time of beholding. It’s designed to force us to pause and look squarely at the person of Jesus – to see the baby born in a manger, coming to be the King of the world. It’s a truth that many know and believe, but rarely behold because we don’t pause long enough to hold the mystery.
Beholding takes time; it doesn’t happen immediately. Beholding takes intention; it doesn’t happen by accident. Beholding takes interaction; it doesn’t happen from a distance. Since it doesn’t happen immediately, accidently, or from a distance, for many of us, it doesn’t happen at all.
Advent speaks into our shallow, fast-paced life and beckons us deeper. It challenges us to stop, to ponder, and to treasure in our hearts “the Godhead veiled in flesh, / the incarnate Deity, / pleased as man with man to dwell, / Jesus, our Emmanuel!”
Reflection and Response
Advent echoes the cry of Isaiah: “Behold your God!” Spend a few minutes savoring your God today by listing the attributes you love most about God. Speak or write these words, and then let the words sink into your heart by beholding what you’ve just expressed.
By Ryan Paulson