Christmas is a magical time for little children. For weeks, they are wondering about the gifts they will receive. And then finally the day of revelation comes, when they get to see what is in those packages under the tree.
But the sense of wonder doesn’t have to end when we grow up. God wants to give gifts to us adults during this season as well. He wants to reveal his glory to us. He wants to fulfill our deepest longings and give us the same joy that St. John described when he wrote, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory” (John 1:14).
This is the real promise of the Advent season. Like John, we have the opportunity to meet Jesus, to see his glory, and to experience his love. Of course, we can’t see Jesus in the same way that John saw him. But we can see Jesus in the same way that the saints have seen him for the past two thousand years. Like them, we can know his love and feel his presence moving in us. Like them, we can embrace him in the living bread of the Eucharist and in the quiet of our prayer.
In this article we will look at some of the people in the Gospels who met Jesus and came to see his glory and feel his love. Like John, they came to see him as the Word of God become flesh.
“Come and See.” With these words, Jesus invited Andrew and a friend to spend the day with him (John 1:39). By the end of the day, Andrew knew that Jesus was the Messiah. He was so excited by what he had found that he went to his brother, Simon Peter, and urged him to come and see for himself (1:41). Andrew’s excitement must have been contagious, because Peter agreed to come meet this rabbi from Nazareth. And the rest is history.
But that was just the beginning. The very next day, Jesus met Philip and extended a similar invitation, saying, “Follow me” (John 1:43). Like Andrew, Philip was excited by what he saw, so he found his friend Nathanael and told him about Jesus.
Now Nathanael had his doubts. He knew from Scripture that the Messiah was not supposed to come from Nazareth. But rather than try to answer Nathanael’s doubts, Philip just repeated Jesus’ invitation, “Come and see” (John 1:46). It didn’t take long in Jesus’ presence before Nathanael proclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God!” (1:49).
Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip, and Nathanael all accepted the invitation. As they spent time with Jesus, they saw more than a prophet or a good teacher. Even if it was just an initial recognition that needed further testing and deeper revelation, they saw that he was the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior of the world. Just a little time with Jesus was all they needed, and their hearts were set on fire!
It sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Reflecting on these stories should move us to ask, “How can I meet Jesus as they did?” And the answer is quite simple: by accepting his invitation. Every day he calls out to us: “Come and see. Come get to know me. Come enjoy my presence.” All we have to do is spend time with him, whether at Mass, in adoration, or in personal prayer. We just need to put ourselves in an environment—both physical and spiritual—that helps us quiet our hearts and be open to his presence and love.
The Breaking of the Bread. Another story of revelation is told near the end of Luke’s Gospel. On Easter Sunday, after Jesus had risen from the dead, but before he showed himself to the Twelve, two other disciples were walking from Jerusalem to the town of Emmaus. They were still grieving Jesus’ death, when he came up beside them and started talking with them. Mysteriously, neither one recognized him; in fact, they began to explain everything that had happened on Good Friday. They told him how sad and abandoned they were feeling now that this great rabbi had been killed.
Quickly taking control of the conversation, Jesus chided them for giving him nothing more than a human analysis of the events instead of believing that Jesus would rise as he promised he would. Then he proceeded to teach them from the Scripture. He pointed to Moses and the prophets and showed how the Messiah had to die and how he would rise again. Jesus’ words were so compelling that these two disciples felt a burning in their hearts. They sensed that he was right and that there was still reason to hope.
Later, when they sat down to dinner, Jesus took some bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. In one amazing split second, the disciples recognized who this fellow was—just as he disappeared from their sight! Immediately, they turned around and went back to Jerusalem to tell the apostles what had happened.
Every week, millions of people relive this story as they go to Mass. We come with weak faith, looking for strength. We come feeling isolated, longing for a deeper relationship with the Lord. We come to hear the word of God and a homily, hoping that our hearts will burn as the Emmaus disciples’ hearts did. Then, when we receive Jesus, we yearn for the chance to recognize him and to feel the same joy that filled these two disciples.
The Spirit of Revelation. In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke tells even more stories about Jesus revealing himself. He begins by recounting Jesus’ promise to his apostles: “John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. . . . You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:5, 8). Next came Pentecost, when the Spirit was poured out, and people’s lives were changed—just as Jesus had promised.
From that day on, exciting stories unfolded as the gospel spread from Jerusalem and eventually filled the whole world. On Pentecost, three thousand people received revelation about Jesus from the Spirit. A short while later, in Caesarea, Peter told a Roman centurion and his household about Jesus, and the Holy Spirit fell on them (Acts 10). Then, in cities like Corinth, Philippi, Thessalonica, Galatia, and Colossae, the same thing happened over and over again: the apostles preached, and the Holy Spirit revealed Christ to the people.
The same thing can happen today. The same Holy Spirit who energized the early Church can fill us with joy and excitement. He can tell us about Jesus and open the eyes of our hearts to his glory. At the Last Supper, Jesus promised, the Spirit “will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. . . . He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you” (John 14:26; 16:14). This is the promise that he is still fulfilling today in the hearts of every person who accepts his invitation to come and see.
This is the first and most important job of the Holy Spirit: to reveal Jesus, the Word, to us in greater and greater depth. And from the very beginning, the Spirit has been doing just this. Look back over your life, and you’ll find ways that he has ministered to you. Even in subtle ways, he has been offering you his comfort and whispering to you that Jesus, the Lord of all creation, is with you and loves you deeply.
Come, Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus asks us to accept his invitation to come and see, the Holy Spirit asks us to let him reveal Jesus to us. Every day, the Spirit comes to us and says, “Let me tell you how much Jesus loves you. Let me show you how magnificent he is. Let me fill you with the power to live a holy life. Let me guide you and teach you his wisdom.”
All we need to do is to say, “Come, Holy Spirit! Fill me and my family. Help us to know Jesus more today.” As we said in our first article, we just have to tell Jesus, “I give you the first affections of my heart.” Then Jesus will warm our hearts with his love and fill us with his peace.
We want to wish all of our readers a blessed Christmas. May we all come to believe more deeply that Jesus Christ, the Word of God, wants to reveal himself to us. May we all trust that he wants to give us great and wonderful gifts this Christmas. And most of all, may we all accept his invitation to “come and see” him every day.