December 25, 2016
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth."
We have seen his glory? Who's we? Well St. John wrote this Gospel, so he certainly saw this glory, along with the great multitudes of people who witnessed the enfleshed Word as he dwelt among them. They witnessed Christ turn water into wine and calm storms, heal the sick and raise the dead, and feed multitudes from a small basket of bread. This divine glory was actually seen by people, both believers and scoffers. The man Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary truly walked upon the earth, dwelling among earthlings. And this man is also true God, whose divinity shined forth with every miracle he performed.
Yet this glory of which John speaks is different than the glory found here on earth. This is not the glory of an MVP quarterback or a ruler of a powerful empire. This glory doesn't land Christ in a castle or clothe him in soft clothes. This is not the glory sought by men or worshiped by the world. This is the glory of the only begotten Son of the Father.
The only begotten Son of the Father is the eternal Word. He was with God from the beginning. He is God. Through him all things were made and without him was not one thing made that was made. His glory is unique, because there is none like him. He alone is the only begotten of the Father. His glory is eternal. It doesn't need man's approval or desire to be glorious. Man's glory depends on what he can receive from other men, what he can do to impress them. Christ's glory is received from God from eternity.
And so this glory is strange and it is found in strange places. In a manger made to feed beasts lies an infant boy, wrapped in cloth to keep him warm. And a Virgin Mother looks down upon God's glory. Shepherds, who were just recently blinded by the splendor of the heavenly hosts gaze upon the Lord of glory asleep on the straw.
It's strange. It's what causes the hymnist to write, "O Jesus Christ, Thy Manger is My paradise at which my soul reclineth. For there, O Lord, Doth lie the Word Made flesh for us; herein Thy grace forth shineth." We find God's glory here in the manger, not in a kings palace, not on the battlefield or in the football stadium. God's glory shines forth from the manger, because there is where God's Word is. There is where God's truth is. God promised. He promised in the garden to that cursed snake that this seed of woman would come. He promised through the Prophet Isaiah that this virgin birth would bring God to be with us. And now after thousands of years of prophecies and anticipation God fulfills his Word. He glorifies himself before angels and men and sheep. He becomes a man.
And the glory of this only begotten Son of the Father would continue to perplex. In his baptism by John in the Jordan, as he sat with sinners and ate with them, even forgiving them. Yet with every act Christ performed he glorified God the Father and God the Father glorified him, because Christ fulfilled God's holy Word.
When the glory of God seemed farthest from anyone's eyes was the Word Made Flesh truly glorified. But what John saw was a weak man soaked in sweat and blood. What those miracle watchers beheld was the beating, scourging, and bloody execution of an unfortunate rabbi. Yet this bloody mess too shined forth the glory that could only be of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth. Because this horrid death fulfilled God's holy Word spoken by the prophets and planned by God before the foundations of the earth. Christ's death glorified God not only because it fulfilled his holy Word and proved God to be true, but it earned salvation for all mankind.
The disciples blinded by grief did not recognize this glory until Christ returned to them from the grave, living, breathing, and victorious over the enemies that enslaved us since the fall of Adam. Christ's resurrection proved to them and to us that God's glory can only be found in the man Jesus.
We have seen his glory. Have we? The shepherds did when they saw God asleep on the hay. John saw it when he stood beneath the cross of Jesus and promised to care for his mother in her old age. All the disciples saw this glory when Christ showed them the holes in his hands and feet. But I didn't see any of this. Neither did you. So have we seen his glory? How could we?
Many people saw God in the flesh walk the earth. But not many believed in him. Many people heard the Apostles preach of Christ's death and resurrection. Many believed, but many did not. To truly see the glory of the only begotten Son of the Father requires faith. Faith in the grace God offers through Christ. Faith in the truth of his word.
When a child is born there are many momentous firsts. There is one first that parents don't think about before it happens, but every parent is overjoyed when it does happen. With each of our children Theresa held our child in her arms and looked at the baby's face and waited for the eyes to open. That's the moment, isn't it? You parents know what I'm talking about. When your child opens his eyes and looks into yours. It's an intimate moment. It's almost like a second birth, the first formal introduction between parent and child. There is something about looking into your child's eyes that says, "Yes, I know you. I can see you and you can see me." The doctors and nurses in the delivery room all saw the baby, naked and vulnerable. But it is that gaze into the eyes, where the mother says, "I know you" and the child responds, "I know you too."
Many people saw Christ on earth. They even beheld his glory as it was revealed in his miracles. But they did not really see him, did not truly behold his glory as that of the only begotten Son of the Father until they believed in his grace and truth. Martha saw this glory when she confessed, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world." (John 11:27) St. Peter beheld this glory when he said to Jesus, "Lord, to whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." (John 6:68-69) Mary too beheld this glory as she looked into her son's eyes and pondered all these things in her heart.
God wants you to look him into his eyes. This doesn't involve simply seeing the miracles and believing that they happened. This involves believing that Christ is whom Scripture says he is, the Word made flesh, the only begotten of the Father. Looking Christ in the eyes is believing that he is true, that God did not lie; that God really became man, man to deliver; that the only begotten Son of the Father lies in the manger in order that he might save you from your sins. I'm talking about faith! And with faith in God's grace, faith in the truth of God's incarnation for your salvation, you have an advantage greater than even those who saw with their naked eyes the Word Made Flesh as the roamed Israel nearly two thousand years ago.
We have beheld his glory, because we have believed his word. We have received his grace. We know that he is true. We behold his glory when we believe in the forgiveness of sins spoken to us for Christ's sake. We behold his glory when we fend of Satan with the proclamation, "I am baptized into Christ!" We behold this glory when we eat and drink, not to our own judgment, but for the forgiveness of sins won on the cross for us. And with this faith, not only do we look into the eyes of our dear Savior, but God looks into our eyes. And he sees his children, born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And by his grace we will continue to behold this glory of the only begotten Son of the Father by faith until with eyes made new we behold the Word Made Flesh in eternity.
Merry Christmas dear children of God. Amen.