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 27, 2015
The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory.
Imagine. To a first century Greek-speaking, conceptualizing world of many gods, how do you tell a story of Hebrew origin, arising from a speck of land in the Middle East, about a monotheistic, eternal God who entered human history?
I imagine John the evangelist wrestling with this question as he began to write, “In the beginning was the Word.” I can hear his mind turning, his heart trusting that all would understand. For word, in the Greek, logos, the animating power of the universe, without which there is nothing, through which all things come to be was an idea shared by Jewish and Hellenistic cultures.
Now imagine a Greek reader, who ascribes to a dualistic philosophy of the purity of the spirit realm and the wickedness of the world, perusing John’s prologue, intrigued by the use of logos, arriving at the verse, “the Word became flesh,” in disgust throwing the scandalous scroll to the dust. The pure logos, the eternal principle of universal order, encased in sordid flesh? Unimaginable!
But like a shocking idea that, once perceived, clamps unshakably onto the human consciousness, impossible to ignore, that Greek reader retrieves the scroll and, with horrified fascination, recites again, “the Word became flesh.” Then another shock, “and we have seen his glory.” Glory? Doxa? Eternal splendor? Divine and invisible majesty made visible in time and space? Unimaginable, yet also wonderful!
God’s glory made real in the flesh of Jesus. This, for John, is the Christmas story. Countless are the ways to articulate what this means. And for this, God’s glory made real, to have meaning, we must interpret for ourselves.
So, imagine this. As we read the biblical gospel accounts, we encounter in Jesus one who embodies love and justice unconditional, kindness and fairness, actively, equally shared, without qualification, without reliance on any standard of deserving, merit, or judgment, with everyone, especially the poor and oppressed, forgotten and forsaken, lost, least, last, broken in spirit and barren of hope. There is God’s glory.
Now, imagine this. Whenever the glory of the love and justice of Jesus is conceived through the Spirit in the wombs of our souls and given birth in our daily living, enfleshed, visible to all in our intentions and actions, words and deeds, then we are the Christmas story made real.
Illustration: Saint John the Evangelist, Giuseppe Vermiglio, c. 1630