It is a staple scene in many movies. The main character needs to make a statement: a speech for political reasons; a summation for a jury; a presentation in class. They are nervous and frightened. The other main character has been helping them and coaching them as they prepared. Still, there is that moment of hesitation as they get ready to start, or perhaps they’ve started and begun badly, stammering and stuttering through the first sentence or two. Then, they speaker glances at the person who helped them and as he/she sees the look of confidence and assurance on the other person’s face as she/he nods to tell them, “you can do this,” they gain the confidence they need and their speech wins the day.
The right look or a glance can give a person confidence. Given by the wrong person, it can destroy all hope. There is such amazing power in what would seem to be simple glances. The people of Israel recognized that power. When they underwent terrible suffering, they described the situations as those where God turned His face away from them. And so the plea in Psalm 80 makes perfect sense: “Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.” (Psalm 80:7)
Oh, how we want God’s approval. How much we want God’s presence in our lives. The true joy, the true message of Christmas is found in the word Emmanuel. Emmanuel means “God with us.” While the Psalmist cried out and asked God to look on the people, the Christmas message is not only that God looked on us and loved us, He came to earth as a man. The theological term for this is “incarnation.” God not only was willing to look at us with love, He came down to earth so that He could put His arm around us to comfort us, when needed. This was not just a feeling that God was walking with us; Jesus coming to earth was God Himself walking with us, teaching us, talking to us, living with us. God with us, so that we might be saved. And in the back of every Christian’s mind is the truth that Jesus was born so that eventually He would die on the cross to bring us forgiveness and grace.
The look of Jesus in person had quite an effect on many people. Each time He is recorded as looking at people, He looks with grace. You might wonder about the look Jesus gave Peter when the cock crowed. I believe it was not so much an “I told you so” condemnation as “I’m so sorry I was right, but I still love you,” look. He looked at the woman caught in adultery and showed her grace. To paraphrase an old song, when Jesus looks at anyone, the look of love is in His eyes. While we can’t see Jesus looking at us, we can know that He is looking at us with love. The sad thing is that we are the ones who try to hide from Him, much like Adam and Eve in the Garden after their sin. We do something we know is wrong, and we try to hide from God. We avoid going to church. We stay away from our Christian friends. Perhaps we think that if we do that, God won’t see us. No matter what we’ve done; no matter how far we’ve run away, we can’t escape His look. When we realize that He is looking and we stop to look back, His face is shining upon us as He looks at us with love, drawing us back into His salvation; into His mercy and grace. For those who have committed their lives to Christ, the most comforting word in all the world is “Emmanuel.” God with us not as a threat, but as our savior.
Lord, look on me. Grant me courage for today. Let me look at others as You look at me. Let me show others Your grace and mercy as I go through this life.