First United Methodist Church
December 25, 2022
Rev. Lauren Hall
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory.” Have you ever taken some time to think about what that statement truly means?
I’m going to read to you a passage from “Everything is Sacred: 40 Practices and Reflections on the Universal Christ,” written by Richard Rohr and Patrick Boland. I have been reading these reflections as I have prepared my messages the past few weeks.
“At the Resurrection,” Father Richard tells us, “Jesus was fully revealed as the eternal and deathless Christ in embodied form.” This revelation manifested in various ways, beginning with Easter Sunday when “the tombs…were opened. And many bodies of those who had fallen asleep were raised up.
Over the following days and weeks, those whom Jesus encountered saw the culmination of his teaching and his miracles in his resurrected body. They realized that he was more than just the human Jesus, who lived within the parameters of life and death; he was also the eternal Christ. Rohr writes that “his significance for humanity and for us was made ubiquitous, personal and attractive for those willing to meet Reality through him. But for Jesus’s first followers, the Resurrection wasn’t their first glimpse of this change. In the Gospel accounts, there had been precursors to this moment, in which Jesus was “gradually being revealed as ‘Light’” – most notably the transfiguration.
In the same way, we do not have to wait for our death and final resurrection before “Love and Light” is revealed within us. Rohr tells us that “most of us,” if we are listening and looking, also have such resurrection moments in the middle of our lives, when “veil parts” now and then.
Consider this: In the United States, we have a thing about famous people. We want to know all about them. Their celebrity is like a magnetic star riveting our attention, sometimes to the point of our being transfixed. When someone tells us that they know a celebrity personally, our first question is usually, “Wow. What’s he or she really like?” The tabloid media makes its money off of our desire to know the rich and famous.
If you think about the way that Youtube works, or perhaps Tik Tok, you realize that fame is associated with “likes,” and a person becomes famous based on how many followers they have. When advertisers become aware of the high number of views a particular person receives, they sponsor them, and thus, the producer of the You Tube or Tik Tok video becomes “famous.” Although virtual fame is accomplished a little differently than the fame achieved by some of our well-known stars such as Babe Ruth, Julia Garland, Martin Luther King, or Lassie, the results are similar. When you mention a famous person’s name, everybody knows who you are talking about and can describe some detail about that person, or animal, whether they are your favorite or not.
That being said, many famous people don’t want to be known. They complain about the paparazzi’s relentless intrusion in their lives. They disguise themselves when out in public. They protect the privacy of their families. When asked a very personal question by a reporter, they may end the interview or bolt out of the room.
God, however, wants to be known. God wants to be recognized on the streets, and God wants to receive a million likes. And Christmas is about the lengths to which God will go to be known and loved. Rather than relying on a Tik Tok video, the Bible tells us that “the Word became flesh and lived among us.” When John says this, he is describing Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, as God’s premier self-revelation in human form. In other words, if you want to know this God, who so deeply wants to be known, then look at Christ. To see Jesus is to see God. “Whoever has seen me,” Jesus once told his disciple Philip, “has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
Call it an invasion. Call it a giant stoop. Call it the great humbling. Call it the incarnation. God makes Himself known by coming as a human being, born of a woman. He won’t be found hiding in a palace or a temple either. As John puts it, He “dwelt among us.” More literally, He “pitched his tent” with us. God has a history of immersing Himself in His creation, walking with Adam and Eve in the garden, visiting Abraham and Sarah, pitching his tent in the tabernacle with the wandering Israelites and in the temple in Jerusalem.
Look at the incarnation this way. If someone really wanted to know you, I mean, know you as you really are, where would you be, and what would you be doing? Where would they find the real you? Reading a story to a child? Creating something beautiful? Making people laugh? Working hard? Another way of saying this is, “Where and when does the glory of being you shine through best?”
When God contemplated that question, the answer was, “They’ll find the real me in my Son, living among them as one of them.” John says, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the Son from the Father …” Sure, John was no doubt thinking of the glory he saw when Jesus was transfigured before his eyes, but he was also thinking of all the other glories that made God known to him in Jesus. The glory was there as Jesus healed a leper or taught on a hillside, and even when He was “lifted up” on a cross (John 12:32).
When John finally gets to answering the question, “From what you saw in Jesus, what is God really like?” he says that Jesus is “full of grace and truth.” John is overwhelmed by the generous love of God he sees in Christ. In verse 16 he writes, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Grace is what John sees in Christ, “grace upon grace.” In other words, Jesus embodies the relentless, extravagant, limitless, and constant love of God.
And John saw truth in Jesus as well. Later in his gospel he remembers Jesus saying, “I am the truth” (John 14:6). Jesus embodies the truth about God. He didn’t come just to teach people about God. He showed people what God is like. To know Jesus is to know the truth about God. To know the truth about God is to be set free from fear, guilt, and even death itself (John 8:32).
Over the last few weeks in Advent we have looked through the lens of the sacred and have experienced time, people, places, others and ourselves as God’s holy love reflected and incarnate in the world.
Because of the experience of God’s action of love toward us, we are called also to act, to not only embrace God’s love, but also to embody it. Therefore, as we complete this series and prepare ourselves for a New Year, I’d like to challenge you to consider three things:
1. Each time an exchange of help occurs, this is a reflection of the sacred, the Christ Mirror that is showing you God’s hope, love, joy and peace in abundance.
2. May we be a reflection of Christ’s light, expanding the Sacred doing of our community to the alleviation of suffering wherever it is found.
3. We dedicate ourselves this New Year to sacred acts of justice and mercy, bring grace to a hurting world, reflecting the sacred in all we do.
Among the cherished presents we have in Christ are hope, love, peace, life, joy and glory. “We have seen his glory.” Glory is the gift of knowing God up close and personal in Jesus Christ, and the willingness to be “surprisingly sacred” in everything we do.
This morning, I invite you to “Christify” your meal, your gifts, and each other simply by offering a blessing on the things in your home, your gathering, under your tree, the people around, and say “you are actually not surprisingly sacred to me… I’ve known all along that you are a gift.”