(Yes, this is my very own photo. Did you guess? It’s either very interesting, or quite terrible. The glow, though, is the feeling I was going for….)
I have never given much thought to halos. But now, they seem to be everywhere I look.
We all recognize an artist’s depiction of that golden circle around or over a person’s head. The use of a halo in art goes ‘way back, long before Christian painters used a ring of light to frame Christ’s head or signify an angel or a saint.
And while most of us know little about the history of halos in religious art, we certainly understand some of the symbolism behind that little golden bit of light. It represents a purity, holiness, something of godly nature, beyond earthly and human. Halos are for saints and angels and the divine.
And certainly not for me. How many times have you heard a joke about someone’s halo slipping? If my portrait is ever painted, the last thing I’d expect is to see a halo shining around me.
But humor me, and try to imagine a picture of yourself — with a halo. Got that image?
Now let’s switch scenes to the room where the disciples and other believers waited for something Jesus had promised them, the coming of a Person and Power that would comfort and guide them. The account in Acts says
Suddenly there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.
Can you imagine what it would have been like to have been in that room? There’s a loud roar through the house, and you look at your friend sitting next to you. The glow of a flame sets his face alight. Maybe it was even more breathtaking than that; maybe it set his entire body ablaze. And your friend can suddenly speak in a language he never before understood.
Somehow, I don’t think pieces of art that depict this event with quiet little flames above each believer’s head have quite conveyed the power of what happened that day. God has come again and now dwells in the believers.
The same Spirit that arrived in such a dramatic fashion is given to each of us, children of God. That same Spirit shakes our lives, sets something within us ablaze, and changes us.
We are taught things we never knew, we are given new lives, we know a power beyond ourselves.
You might have snorted or scoffed or giggled a bit when I suggested you picture yourself with a halo. But isn’t that what the Spirit has done? Hasn’t He brought alive in you a life beyond this earthly one? Isn’t He changing us into the image of Christ? Didn’t Jesus’ sacrifice make it possible for God to declare you spotless and holy?
Paul gives a long list of those who won’t inherit the Kingdom of God. Then he says, Some of you were once like that. But you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Amazing, isn’t it? No matter what I once was, God has now made me holy.
The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people.
And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own…
The word translated here as “identified” means “sealed”, setting a mark upon an object to show possession and acceptance.
Maybe a halo shining around your head is not so outlandish, after all.
Just one more scene to imagine. The next time you are in church, look around. See those halos above all of God’s children? See the flame of the Holy Spirit burning within them?
Scripture: Acts 2:2-4, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Ephesians 1:14 and 4:30 (all NLT)
Some years ago, someone called me Saint Catherine. Knowing myself, I protested.
But in recent years, I have come to know and understand that – yes, we are “holy”, we may have a halo, we are made righteous, we are worthy of an inheritance – ONLY BECAUSE OF JESUS’ SACRIFICE AND SHED BLOOD COVERING US. What a gift, what a privilege, almost more than we can understand at times.
Even though I know that, it still makes me squirm to be called Saint Catherine…