A sermon, based on John 1.1-18, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on the 1st Sunday after Christmas Day, December 31, 2017
Manifold are the glories, the breathtaking, mind-blowing phenomena of this world. Among them, the glory of nature’s snow-capped mountains, grand canyons, vast oceans, mighty rushing rivers and waterfalls, and the infinite canopy of the cosmos and the glory of human intellect, imagination, and inspiration made manifest in great literature, beautiful art, and sublime music. On this last score (pun intended!), every Advent and Christmas, I listen to Handel’s(1) The Messiah, especially Part One concerning the prophecy and promise of the Redeemer; throughout, never ceasing to marvel at the composer’s brilliance.
Though manifold are the world’s glories, for John the evangelist there is but one: The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son. John pulled aside the curtain that separates earth and heaven that we might behold the majesty of the mind of God, what God intended at the dawn of time, yea, verily, before the dawn of time. With thanks to John, we can behold God’s handiwork in the baby born in a Bethlehem stable. There and there is the glory of the Christmas proclamation: God with us in our flesh!
…Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’ incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel(2)
Though we stand in the Christmas season, we live after the completion of Jesus’ earthly ministry, after his crucifixion and resurrection, after his ascension with his promise to come again to judge the living and the dead, after he hath sent his Spirit to dwell within us as divine presence and power to continue his ministry until he returns. Therefore, what was…what is true of Jesus, by his glorious gift of the Holy Spirit, is true of us: The Godhead is veiled in our flesh!
I wonder. What might it mean for us if we believed and beheld in others and in ourselves the glory of God? It would change how we live and that change would be the most glorious gift we could give in this season and at any season of our lives.
Illustration: Saint John the Evangelist (Saint Jean l’Évangeliste), James Tissot (1836-1902)
(1) George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
(2) From the hymn, Hark, the herald angels sing; Words by Charles Wesley (1707-1788), Hymns and Sacred Poems (1739)