I saw just a piece of a program on the Discovery Channel recently. The opening promised us a show about fearless exploration. They would leave no stone unturned. They would question everything. It featured a scientist and a paranormal researcher who were dressed like a 21st century version of Indiana Jones. They were searching for answers to the world’s most extraordinary mysteries. I was doing something else at the time, so I didn’t see much after that, but what little I did see looked like it was as much entertainment as exploration.
Still, it made me think about the debt we owe to men and women who give their lives to better understand the world we live in. I’m speaking of those people whose passion it is to discover new truths and make known the unknown whether it is on science, mathematics, history or some other field. They help us to exercise dominion over our world (Genesis 1:26). Where would we be, for example, without the people who have tirelessly worked to produce a vaccine for the coronavirus? Such people are used by God to bring blessings to all of us.
And yet, maybe because God has allowed and enabled us to know so much, we sometimes become overconfident about our knowledge and ability to understand things. We lose our perspective and fly too close to the sun. For all we know (and that’s substantial), there is so much more that we don’t know. Think about how every few months there is a new idea about how the universe began. Or to bring things down to earth, how many times have we been told a certain food wasn’t good for us only to be later told it’s not so bad after all(or vice versa)? My point is simply that being human means we are subject to limitations so that even those who have their head in the clouds must live with their feet on the ground. While there are many mysteries we can solve, there are also many that we must learn to embrace.
This all fits in with what we find in the biblical witness. Job questioned God a little too much until finally the Almighty began posing questions to Job. He was reminded that man is not in the same area code as the Almighty. God tells us through Isaiah that the separation is “As the heavens are higher than the earth” (55:9).
All of this sets the table for John’s presentation of Jesus as the light of the world (8:12, 9:5). A solid sense of humility will help us understand that for all the blessings they bring to us, medicine, space exploration, agricultural advancements, etc., cannot take care of our deepest, greatest need. That’s because our ultimate need isn’t about health, natural resources or even the food supply—it is about our relationship with God. To paraphrase Augustine, we were made for Him and we are restless until we allow ourselves to be found by Him.
What we need is the light that Jesus brings. We have the ability to see, but we need light to make it happen. If history has shown us anything, it’s that this light is not within us. It must come from a source outside us. Maybe that’s why it’s a star that leads the wise men to Bethlehem. A light leads them to the One who is the light (see the aged Simeon’s words in Luke 2:29-32).
All of this is beautifully conveyed in the story of Jesus giving sight to the man who was blind from birth (John 9). After the man’s eyes were initially opened, Christ appeared to Him a second time and revealed His identity to him. In the same way, Peter was told that His understanding of Jesus’ identity had not been revealed to him by flesh and blood, but by God Himself (Matthew 16:17). And if we’ve come to believe in Jesus, it’s no different for us. God has opened our eyes to see the glory of His Son.
Bethlehem is all about the healing, life giving light that has come into the world in the person of Jesus. May we see His light and rejoice!