And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:76-79)
One thing I love about winter is the coruscating frost in the warm morning light like God's very own glitter. It is good of Him to give us light when days are short and cloudy. I love how the frost covers everything on the ground, little plants and dead things too, and how joyously the light dances through the cold wetness, like the glistening, merry eyes of someone laughing. And in December mornings as I drive to church with sparkles in my eyes, I think of Christ, our Sunrise, who brings the forgiveness of our sins and light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
How do we write about or even think about these things? God reveals Himself in nature, but according to Romans 1 it is His eternal power and divine nature that we see. We don't open our front doors or wander out in fields and receive specific messages from God. The final word of God is Christ, a light whom the darkness can't overcome (John 1:5). In the Scriptures, God has spoken with finality of the forgiveness of sins in Christ. Yet I don't think it's wrong to see the beauty of God in creation not just abstractly but symbolically, viewing the creation as shadows of true things He has already revealed in the gospel in His Word. God Himself uses creation metaphorically all throughout the Bible to make the realities of our sin and salvation in Christ more clear to us. Yet beauties we see now in creation are not direct messages or even purposeful symbols at that moment from God Himself. We can see reminders of the gospel in them, but they are not signs from God.
I guess it is easy for us to, on social media and through creative outlets, but also just through our daily lives, use creation and even our own selves as demonstrations of sorts without ending with Christ, the One we're supposedly pointing toward. The whole point of figurative language is to take what we can see and use it to see what we can't see as well. We even devalue metaphors when we get hung up on the symbols or shadows themselves. Again, I have to wonder, if we are trying to see Christ and point others to Christ, how is that done?
Ultimately, we cannot see Christ unless it is in connection with the law and the gospel. This is how God reveals His Son, who is the precious goal and object of our sight. This means that when we spend all of our energies thinking of His provision of good things, like food or farmland or family, without turning our eyes to our need before Him as sinners and His greatest provision of true food and true drink – Christ's body and blood – we are not honoring Him as we should. Perhaps we are even turning our hearts and the hearts of others to idols instead of the true God and Savior. Should we put so much focus on living our lives before believers and unbelievers as though our lives were some great portrayal of Christ, or should we focus on pushing others to Christ through the law and gospel? Showing Christ through the law and gospel doesn't really have to do with having cute houses or bringing the best beer to the party. In fact, our nice families and moral, supposedly happy lives are not how we are to point others to Christ. Our morality (though we may fail greatly, we will still fight against sin, bear fruit, and do good works) is not what attracts others to Christ. It may convict them as they see their lack of holiness under the law, and this conviction can drive them to Christ, but when we are pointing others to ourselves and our lives as the end goal, we are offering them false saviors and helping them to hope in themselves and earthly things instead of Christ.
Christ is the Word of God. The gospel is presented to us in words. Words are so important in sharing the truth, much more important than our lives lived out before others. This is comforting for me, because I do a poor job loving others and pointing them to Christ as an example. I am far too unlike Him. But I can use words and say that I am sinful. I can go to Christ and be loved by Him in front of others. I can receive forgiveness and grace from Him in front of others and serve others as a result of that mercy. I can exhort others to turn to Him when they have need and sin. Our God is so powerful. He will receive glory in His people even in our sin, because He will still be there to save us. And it will be so sweet to stand in heaven with so many other justified and even glorified sinners who sin no more and see that He carried us the whole way and that His mercy was so expansive, enough for so many people.
I want to learn more and more how to use words like God uses them, how He uses metaphors and figurative language to point us to Christ, and how Christ is God's final word. Christ is our end, whom we see through the law and gospel laid out in Scripture. If earthly things can help us understand these things more clearly, they are valuable for us to use, just as God Himself uses them. And it is beautiful to me, more beautiful than the earthly blessings God gives, that He loves us and shows us mercy even when we abuse these blessings and focus on them instead of Him. It's beautiful that when we live the glory story and point others to ourselves, Christ stands able to save us and others. We would wrap ourselves in shadows, but our Father sent Christ, the sun who rises with healing in His wings, to bear away our sins.