Sunday, December 26, 2021
First Sunday after Christmas

Using lectionary for Nativity of Our Lord III: Christmas Day, Year C

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light. By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit, through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Readings and Psalm

Isaiah 52:7-10 Heralds announce God’s salvation
Psalm 98
Hebrews 1:1-12 God has spoken by a Son
John 1:1-14 The Word became flesh

Sermon 

Title: The Glory in the Story

We have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,full of grace and truth.

That’s why we are here, isn’t it? 

Because we have seen God’s glory.  Right?
We join the angels in singing of this glory.
We join the shepherds in rejoicing that we have beheld this glory.
We join the magi in embarking on a journey that will bring us closer to this glory.

We have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,full of grace and truth.

It’s enough to make you want to sing three choruses of Angels We have Heard on High with all those glorias.  It’s enough to make you want to sit in a cold field just to witness that multitude of angels.  It’s enough to make you want to travel a great distance, on the hump of a camel even, just to have the opportunity to lay our gifts before this new born king.

We have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,full of grace and truth.

But we are not angels, we are not shepherds in first century Palestine, we are not stargazers who read signs in the movement of heavenly bodies.  (well, perhaps we read the horoscopes, but that’s different.)  And yet, we, earth bound creatures living 2,000 years after that most holy night, have seen his glory, and that is why we are here.  This morning. And every Sunday throughout the year.  Because we have seen his glory.

But just to be sure what we all have seen, and will continue to see, that which we honor with the label glory, and specifically God’s glory, perhaps we should take a minute and define just what we mean by glory.  Perhaps it is one of those churchy words that is tossed around so much that we all assume that everyone has a good idea what it means.

When I highlight the word glory and push the synonym button on my computer, I get a list of words that includes:  magnificence, splendor, beauty, wonder, grandeur, brilliance, fame.  With a string of synonyms like that my imagination can’t help but picture certain gifts that some lucky recipients received over the past couple of days of gift exchanging: the brilliance in jewelry of gold and diamonds, the beauty of new clothing, the grandeur of a car (anybody?), the wonder of new gadgets Anybody get anything they would describe as having magnificence or fame?

But where is the glory in the gift that we are here to celebrate?  What is the glory – the magnificence, splendor, wonder, brilliance, – in the gift of this peasant child born in a stable to an insignificant young couple?

If you and I were designing the entrance of God’s glory, we probably would come up with a very different plan.  Think of it as one of those challenges faced by the characters of Mad Men or by a group of hotshots in Silicon Valley with a start up to launch.  We’d come up with a snazzy marketing campaign.  We’d find ways to create word-of-mouth buzz, we’d look to secure some celebrity endorsements, an online presence.  Something to highlight the magnificence, splendor, wonder, and brilliance of God’s glory taking on flesh and dwelling among us.  But that’s not the story we are hearing and telling.  The Word becoming flesh was born in awkwardness rather than magnificence, surrounded by dirt and a whole lot of hay rather than splendor, the everydayness of a birth rather than wonder, and while the star overhead might have shone with brilliance, that stable was filled with pain, discomfort and a whole lot of moos.

And it didn’t get anymore glorious in those first days and months.  This all powerful God in flesh got run out of town by the local tyrant with a crown.  He and his family had to stay in hiding until the king was dead.

Okay, so the entrance didn’t register high on the glory meter, let’s chalk it up to a slow start, God come to earth and having to get his bearings, observe the lay of the land, so as to understand how things work around here.  But once Jesus, this Word of God made flesh, had a chance to observe just how earth judges glory then what did he do to raise his glory quotient?

Well, he worked as a common laborer.
He called a bunch of other common laborers to be his followers.
He traveled the country side teaching the uneducated and making the educated and powerful angry.
He ate with outcasts, sinners, undesirables, prostitutes and tax collectors.
He went back to the old neighborhood but got no hero’s welcome.
He did perform some great miracles, but often would say to the recipient not to tell anyone.

We’re not doing too well at raising this glory quotient… and it only gets worse.

In the final showdown, when the powers that-be had had enough of this man who – in their eyes – clearly lacked any of God’s glory, they arrested him and threatened him with death and he barely said a word.  He just stood there and took it.  Ultimately dying the death of a criminal.  A public death filled with defeat and humiliation, not glory.

Why are we here?  Oh, yeah, We have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,full of grace and truth.  Could we get a little glory into this story?

In the two verses before the one I keep quoting from the first chapter of John’s gospel we read:

12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 

We are not finding any glory in this Jesus story because he gave it all away.  To us.  He gives us power to become children of God.  God’s glory is in that water through which we are reborn children of God.  God’s glory is in this bread and wine which feeds us, fills us with God’s self so that we might live as children of God.  God sends the spirit to bind us together into one family.  As earthy and gritty, and awkward, and misunderstood, and confused, and anxious, though we be, we are still children of God.  And in God’s eyes and God’s love there (or should we say here) is the magnificence, splendor, beauty, wonder, grandeur, brilliance, and fame that is God’s glory.  Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, we have seen God’s glory for we are God’s glory through the gift of his son Jesus.

Receive this Christmas gift from a most loving God, and let’s spend the new year, and the rest of our lives reflecting this glory in all that we say and do, in how we treat the rest of God’s children who too are filled with this glory.

The Rev. Mark Erson,
Pastor

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