There’s an important story in the life of Christ that might be good for us to take a look at before we jump into the busy holiday season that really kicks off for most of us this week. As we get ready for the familiar feelings of baking, being with friends and family, decorating for Christmas, or whatever else may be part of your family traditions, it’s important to pause in the middle of the familiar and see what we might miss. If you’re like me, you get so caught up with making sure you hit the traditions and making sure the mashed potatoes are just right, that you miss the wonder in the middle of all that very familiar combination of smells, sights, and sounds.
There’s a moment in the life of Jesus where He takes three of His favorite disciples to the top of a mountain—and then things get a little crazy. He invites Peter, James, and John to join him on a high mountain. No one knows just which mountain it was, but when they get to the top, Jesus’ appearance changes from the every day look they have seen since first meeting Him. His face lights up like the sun, his clothes glow—and then it gets even weirder, because Moses and Elijah show up.
Peter’s response is classic. He recognizes that this is such an incredible moment. This might be the greatest thing in his life at this point, and he’s seen Jesus do amazing things. This moment is so great that Peter never wants to leave. He loves this, and tells Jesus that he’d be happy to stay at the top of the mountain with Jesus and the prophet and the patriarch. But then God speaks directly to the disciples. God reminds them that Jesus is His Son—and then says they should listen to what He says.
This story is important for a couple of big reasons, and as we near the holidays, it’s good to remember why it’s included in the Gospel. Like many of us, we get comfortable with what is familiar. Perhaps your relationship with Christ is a long one, and you have grown familiar with it. You don’t see it with fresh eyes anymore, and you may have lost track of why His coming matters so much.
The disciples knew Jesus well. They were with Him constantly. Just a few days before this event happens, Jesus had asked them, “Who do people say that I am?” Peter is the only one who blurts out that Jesus is the Christ, the Promised One, the Messiah. He’s right—that’s exactly who Jesus is. But did Peter really believe it? Did He really see that Jesus was God incarnate—fully human, yet completely God?
On the mountaintop, Peter must have thought back to his words. When he saw Jesus’ glory fully revealed, and heard God speak to Him, he must have realized that what he had blurted out in a quick moment was actually the greatest truth anyone could ever know!
It would have been amazing to stay there, on the top of the mountain, hanging out with Jesus and Elijah and Moses! Think of the emotions, the feelings, the wonder! But God stops Peter’s idea of staying there, memorializing the moment. He interrupts the disciple, reminds them that Jesus is His Son—and then says the greatest thing He could: listen to Him.
When all the glory and light and wonder fades away, the disciples look up and see only Jesus. He’s all that’s there. It’s as if God is reminding them—and us—to not forget the wonder and the greatness and the glory of His Son. But don’t just see it and feel it, let it impact you, let it do something in you. “Listen to Him,” says God. And then we are left with only Jesus. What else could we need?
Now, close your eyes and think of your holiday season. Picture the sights and sounds, the smells, the experiences–the “gingerbread feelings.” Think of the people you love, the family who bugs you, the coworkers who sometimes drive you crazy. Imagine what their faces looks like, what they smell and talk like. Now, instead of thinking about what they are like every day, think of them on a day when they have been especially happy or excited or glad. Think of how different they look, how they sound or act. When we are at our best, we are more who we are meant to be, and that’s how it was for Jesus that day.
God revealed Jesus to us because He wanted us to know that He was at His best so we wouldn’t have to remain at our worst. That’s what’s so amazing about this incredible story–and why, as you prepare for your holidays and all the familiar things you’re about to experience–don’t forget the wonder.