As we enter the Advent season leading to Christmas, what would you like God to do for you, spiritually? Oswald Chambers wrote, “May the Lord keep me radiantly and joyously His.” I think I’m with Oswald. To make it through the holiday season, what I want most is not fortitude to get through the schedule, or steady nerves to cope with kissing cousins, or a cast-iron stomach to handle the cholesterol. What I want rather is a radiant glow.
Those who know me might wonder why I don’t ask God to work on defects in my own personality instead of asking for “radiance.” Well, they certainly have a can of worms there, but it’s too late. I’ve about given up on most of the things that are “my fault, my own fault, my own most grievous fault.” When I get to heaven I will depend solely on the blood of Jesus and the amazing grace of God, who loves me and understands my predicament and “that up with which I have to put.” He will also undoubtedly ignore the good-conduct medal I once received from the United States Army Air Corps.
What kind of a radiant glow do I want? (Thanks for changing the subject.) If possible, I would like to open up to others like a flower to the sunshine of God’s love. I want the iridescent glory of the Holy Spirit to be visible on my face and reflected on those whom I may encounter.
That’s a big order even at Christmas. It might help to look at the Biblical meaning of the word “radiant.” It is used in the NIV translation of Exodus 34:29 to describe the shining face of Moses as he descended from Mount Sinai after being with the Lord. It is used in The Living Bible to describe the Lord’s face in a famous benediction given to Moses by God Himself:
“May the Lord bless and protect you; may the Lord’s face radiate with joy because of you; may He be gracious to you, show you His favor and give you His peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26.)
When Jesus ascended the Mount of Transfiguration, the Gospel of Matthew states that His face “shone like the sun.” Dean Henry Alford suggests that Jesus’ face was “lighted with radiance both from without and within.” Was He smiling? I leave it to you.
In the Random House dictionary, the word “radiance” is listed as having two meanings. The first has to do with the shining, warm, brilliant effect of light. More than any other festive day of the year, Christmas has the atmosphere of radiance and has had it from the beginning. The stars shone down on the shepherds outside Bethlehem on Christmas eve as the angels brought glad tidings of great joy to the earth. The light from a particular star guided the magi or wise men across the desert to the dwelling place of the Christ child.
When Jesus grew to manhood and set forth on His soul-saving messianic mission, He declared, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.” In the Letter to the Hebrews, a brilliant and inspired confirmation of Jesus’ heavenly origin is found in the words, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being.” And Paul, writing to the Ephesians, says Christ even anticipated a radiant church.
There is a second dictionary meaning that says “radiant” also means joy and hope, as in “a radiant smile” and “a radiant future.”
The Old Testament has some interesting uses of the word “radiance.” Psalm 19 speaks of the commands of the Lord as radiant. Shulamith, in the Songs of Songs, describes her lover as “radiant and ruddy.” And Ezekiel, in his vision, sees the land of Israel itself as “radiant with His glory.”
Thinking about Christmas, why do you suppose Christmas is the most popular holiday in the calendar? Why is it celebrated not just in so-called Christian countries, but also in what we used to call “heathenism” (shaded dark on the old Sunday School maps). I’ll tell you why: It ain’t the “cheese,” but rather it is the radiance that came from the face of Jesus, bless Him. Year by year, He still sheds a radiant glow over the whole coming season. The radiance is expressed in the singing of new songs and hymns and the sending of greeting cards, special church services and family gatherings.
Just take a look at some of the words commonly associated with this one word of ours: ebullient, ecstatic, elated, glad, enraptured, euphoric, exuberant, exultant, jocund, jubilant, mirthful, merry, animated, hilarious.
Will Christmas have a radiant glow for you this season?
Sherwood Wirt of Poway is editor emeritus of Decision magazine and the author of numerous books. The Poway resident is founder of the Christian Writers’ Guild.