Stepping out of the Picture

By David Holdaway.

Photo: Thinkstock/Hemera

Stanley Jones, the great Methodist missionary doctor to India gave the following insight to help us capture the heart and meaning of the Christmas message. He describes a small child, standing before a picture of his absent father, who, turning to his mother, wistfully said, “I wish dad would step out of the picture!”  This little boy, said Jones, was expressing the deepest yearning of the human heart. We who have gazed upon pictures of God in nature are grateful, but not satisfied. We want our Father to step out of the impersonal picture and meet us as a person. What we long for is a personal relationship with God not just a religious understanding. No philosophy or principle is able to meet the deepest needs of the human heart.

God has revealed Himself through His creation, the psalmist could look up into the clear night sky with awesome wonder proclaiming: ‘The heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim His handiwork’ (Psalm 191). Yet it is still just a picture, an insight to what God may be like, His greatness and majesty, but not enough to know Him personally.
The Jewish people had the Tabernacle and the Temple, the sacrifices and offerings, but they were still only a picture, a shadow, a type of who was to come. They had the Word of God, the Law and the Prophets, the principles of God enshrined in the Scriptures, but still they longed for a Messiah, someone to come and step out of the picture. Over 2000 years ago in the small town of Bethlehem, in moments words cannot adequately describe, God stepped out of the picture.

When the space craft Apollo 11 landed on the moon and man took his first steps, the world looked on and held its breath. The impossible was actually happening. Just seventy years before, man could not even fly. Commander Neil Armstrong took those first historic steps with the famous words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” It was Jim Irwin, however, another Apollo astronaut and moon-walker, who made a far more significant statement: “God walking on earth is infinitely greater than man walking on the moon.”

This article is reused from FIRST! Magazine 2009

David Holdaway is a pastor and author. He has written over 20 books, including No more Fear and The Burning Heart.This is an extract from The Wonder of Christmas, and is used with permission. You can buy this delightful little book, and other publications of David’s, from his website,

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About First! Again

This blog is a digest of past articles from the Faith Mission magazine, FIRST!

We feature articles on christian living, humour, material suitable for sermon illustrations, news and reports from Faith Mission workers...and more.