The Basics of Beholding (don’t make it harder than it is)

 . . . Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us (Luke 2:15)

From time to time here in the northeast I’ll get a remark about my southern accent. To be honest, I just can’t hear it. My accent, that is.

The comments are always polite, sometimes even inquisitive. The underlying message is some version of ‘You’re not from around here are you?’ Should the conversation go any further I’ll casually explain that my family moved to Bethlehem from Atlanta. Whether people say it out loud or not (and it has been said out loud) they’ll look at me as if to say, ‘Why in the world did you do that?’

‘Why did you come to Bethlehem?’ That’s a fair question, leaving me with a menu of possible responses.

If I’m feeling bold and blunt, I’ll simply tell them that I’m a pastor and I came to Bethlehem to serve a church. The mention of ‘pastor’ and ‘church’ is the verbal equivalent of dousing the conversation with cold water. If I don’t want to do that, I might use the widely accepted and less threatening ‘job opportunity’ answer. Both of those are true but there’s more to be said. And it’s tough to explain a ‘call from God’ in a casual conversation with someone you don’t know.

Add to all the above one very simple factor that explains our coming to Bethlehem: We were invited. We could have never considered coming if we had not been invited.

Come Ye, O Come Ye

An invitation lies at the heart of one of our most familiar and much-loved Christmas hymns. The very first line extends the invitation: ‘O Come all Ye Faithful.’ As the opening verse unfolds the invitation becomes increasingly specific. We hear that all the faithful are being invited to come to Bethlehem, and they (we) are invited for a singular purpose: ‘Come and behold him.’

The hymn summons us to Bethlehem to behold, to see, to look upon the king concealed in infancy.

But the invitation doesn’t stop there. In the refrain of the hymn a different word appears and the invitation changes. Now we are not simply invited to behold this child, we are invited to adore him. This is what gets repeated. ‘O Come Let Us Adore Him.’

At first that might sound like two distinct or separate invitations. Come and behold. Come and adore. They sound different, but they’re not. What we’re hearing, or singing as it were, is one invitation. Beholding and adoring are not quite synonymous, but they are inextricably connected.

When we truly behold Jesus, we will adore or worship him. And there won’t be any true worship of Jesus until we see him, really see who he is and what he ‘s like.

What This Means for Us

What does this mean for us? How do we respond to this invitation to behold and adore?

Our imaginations don’t have any problem picturing those shepherds, rushing to Bethlehem in the aftermath of the angelic announcement, peering with reverence into the manger. Their beholding required a short commute, but the rest was simple. Look and see. Behold.

Things are a little different for us. James Bryan Smith, in his book The Good and Beautiful God, maintains that the we see and behold Jesus by reading the Gospels. We behold Jesus by opening the Bible, listening to his words, watching what he does.

Maybe at Christmas you’re accustomed to hearing the story that Luke so memorably tells us. You might even read it as a part of your family’s Christmas observance. Here’s a suggestion for the remainder of Advent. Try reading a little bit further into one of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life. Go beyond Luke 2 and behold, look, listen.

Let Jesus outgrow his manger. Take a good look at who he is and what he did. My hope is that as you behold, you’ll begin to truly admire and adore Jesus.

And one more thing. There’s so much in this season of the year that keeps us from beholding him. The varied expectations and demands we juggle are not friendly to beholding Jesus. Like the shepherds, we’ll have to be intentional about doing this. ‘Let’s go and see.’

Beholding Jesus is at the heart of Christmas. Nothing in the next ten days could be more important. And nothing will be more easily neglected.

So here’s your invitation to Bethlehem. Come and behold him. It will require some effort, but it isn’t hard to do. And it’s never too late.


Gracious God, we would respond eagerly to your invitation to come and behold. We pray for eyes that are open to seeing your son and hearts that are ready to worship him, fragile infant and King of angels, through whom we offer our prayer. Amen.

One thought on “The Basics of Beholding (don’t make it harder than it is)

  1. Remembering a sermon Bob Marsh gave on beholding from 2Cor. 3:18 from the New American Standard Bible! Merry Christmas to you, Crumplers!!

    Sent from my iPad



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