The text of a sermon, based on John 1.1-18, livestreamed and shared with the people of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Spartanburg, SC, on the 1st Sunday after Christmas Day, December 27, 2020.
The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory.
Manifold are the world’s glories. Phenomena that, when beheld, beckon us to exclaim, “Wow!”
The glory of nature. Snow-capped mountain ranges. Grand canyons. Mighty rushing rivers. The moon and the stars. Jupiter and Saturn, which, for weeks on end, nightly have trekked in tandem across the southern sky and on December 21, positioned at the same celestial longitude, appeared as a single planet; this Great Conjunction last occurring nearly 400 years ago!
The glory of human intellect and spirit. Great literature. Beautiful art. Sublime music. During every Christmastide, one of my personal traditions of many years is to listen to The Messiah. Several times. Always marveling that Georg Frederic Handel created, could create so rich a vocal and orchestral masterpiece.
The glory of political power. Perhaps it is, in part, due to our current American turmoil concerning the transition of presidential power, that I recall the early 1990s and reflect on the beginning of the end of apartheid in South Africa; ostensibly a far greater crisis. Many were the dire predictions of violence and bloodshed that would befall the nation at the dawning of a new reality. Yes, there were disturbances, yet mass mayhem did not occur. And I marvel at this example of the exercise of civil authority with civic responsibility so to yield a relatively peaceful, fruitful passage from one state of being into another.
But when John the evangelist discerned, and then desired to describe glory, he did not look to the powers of this world. Rather celebrating what we term theologically as the Christ-event, John pulled aside the curtain that separates our temporal sphere from the realm of eternity and looked into the eyes of God, and then into a manger to behold a baby, saying, The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory. And, even more, the glory as of a father’s only son.
Of all that hath been written, is written, and will be written about John’s words about the Word – the Divine logos, the creative, animating power of the universe – this day, I offer one word as to the meaning of Christmas. Relationship. For this glory which is, who is Jesus is the gift of God the Father to us.
As I offer relationship as one interpretation, so, by way of application, I ask this question: What if we, daily, always see those, all of those with whom we are in relationship as God’s glorious gifts to us? And what if we, daily, always saw ourselves as God’s glorious gifts to others, all others? It might, it could, I dare to say, it would change how we live.
Now, I do not suggest this to us in a spirit of blithe sentimentality as if our relationships are always uncomplicated and never conflicted. Jesus’ relationship with his Abba, Father was replete with highest mountaintop experiences of revelation and the deepest valley encounters with abandonment and death. Our relationships, too, are filled with joy and pain.
We are hardwired, physically and psychically, for human connection. Therefore, relationships are inescapably necessary. Nevertheless, they are one of the hardest things that we do in this life. Sometimes when I, like the psalmist or Job or Jeremiah, question God, it usually has to do with how difficult relationships are. At those moments, I think that if I had orchestrated the universe – or, at the least, was in communication with the Word at the dawn of time! – and had determined that relationships were essential, then I would have made them easy to do! Alas, it hasn’t been, isn’t, and never will be that way!
Nevertheless, again I ask, what would life be for us if we prayed the Divine-grace to be granted spiritual eyes so to see others and ourselves as God’s glorious gifts? Perhaps then we might be able to say, the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen our glory, the glory of God’s daughters and sons.