BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched - this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.” 1 John 1:1-4
There’s something electric that happens when we have a close encounter with a favorite leader, athlete, or celebrity. I remember vividly one of these kinds of experiences as a teenager. I’ve always been a big fan of professional baseball, and I grew up devoted to the Pittsburgh Pirates. When I was a teenager my favorite player was Omar Moreno. Never heard of him? I’m not surprised; that was part of my attraction to him. While my friends identified with Willie Stargell or Dave Parker, I was pleased that I could claim to be the only Omar fan in town. But it wasn’t just non-conformity that motivated me. I saw in Omar a glorified version of myself – a tall, lean speedster who was known for his graceful defense in center field. I’m not sure that anyone else saw the similarity between us, but it seemed terribly obvious to my inflated adolescent ego!
My magnificent moment came in the summer of 1978, during a somewhat awkward pre-game ritual at Three Rivers Stadium called Picture Day. We fans were allowed onto the playing field with cameras in hand, while the Pirate players would shuffle nervously among us, some smiling and posing graciously, while others showed the kind of enthusiasm usually reserved for dental appointments. When I finally found my man Omar, he was almost obscured by a large crowd of fans. Much against my nature, I rudely plowed through the people and cleared a space to take my treasured photo. I still have the picture somewhere of Omar’s shocked expression. I thrust out my hand and said something profound like, “Omar, I’m your biggest fan!” and he shook his head and my hand simultaneously. I walked off the field with a big grin on my face, repeating to myself, “I just shook hands with Omar Moreno…”
Omar didn’t deserve the extreme adulation that I gave to him, either as a baseball player or as a person. No one does, except One. I was struck by the “fan-like” language that the Apostle John used in the passage from John’s first epistle quoted above. He exults in the fact that he was privileged to not only see and hear the One who was “from the beginning,” Jesus Christ, but he even was able to touch Him. His enthusiasm is understandable when you compare his words here with his very similar preamble to his Gospel – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.” Imagine, being able to see, hear, and touch the One who is the eternal Creator God! Talk about a close encounter with a celebrity! And to think that John didn’t come away with a few condescending comments and an autograph; he was given eternal life and “the Word of life” that has the power to bring others, like me, into joyful fellowship with God the Father, God the Son, and the people of God.
This is really what we celebrate during the Christmas season. It is the essence of incarnation and the point of Christ’s name “Immanuel” – “God with us.” The Creator, the most glorious being in the universe has become a man and He has walked among us. We aren’t given the privilege yet of seeing Him with our physical eyes or shaking His hand, but if we believe the testimony of the apostles about his life, death, and resurrection, our sins are forgiven and we enter into a real relationship with Him by faith.
One day that faith will be sight…I can’t wait! For now, by His Spirit, He remains with us, even to the end of the age. I’m not Christ’s biggest fan – as a matter of fact, I’m still too much of a “fair-weather fan.” But I’m certainly devoted to Him. He alone deserves all my adulation and so much more. Seeing His glory is becoming more and more my greatest goal in life.