Let me be perfectly clear – I am a big fan of Christmas.
Though I am easily frustrated by the foolishness that accompanies it –
the craziness in the marketplace – the excesses we are driven to –
for all that, I love Christmas, because
it was at Christmas that I first learned the language of glory.
I learned it from angel choirs and shepherds .
I learned it in the rich, sacred accents of the King James Version,
as read by Linus van Pelt:
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,  good will toward men.
(Luke 2:9-14)

We have all had our lessons in Christmas glory –
We dress our homes for glory – wrap our gifts – our tables groan under the weight of it –
for a brief time each year – our lives are glory-ful (if I may invent a term…).
So now the old year passes and the new year is upon us – and I wonder
what did we learn about glory this time around?

The glory we ‘create’ for ourselves is fleeting – lets face it.
Our tree went to the curb this weekend –
the turkey is all finished – the candles and the tinsel are all stored away.

We have, since early December,
been trying to re-capture a hint of the glory
that is remembered in those treasured Gospel passages.
And now, as one colleague remarked, it is back to ‘chaos as usual’.

What we experience at this time of year is a kind of glory – one form only –
and while there is no denying the power of that early angelic  experience
to move people, shape history, and influence culture,
we should not let that Christmas glory stand as our only reference.

Our Gospel lesson from St John this morning,
though it is used in the Christmas lectionary,
is not a seasonal hymn  to the glory that the author saw revealed in Jesus Christ.
This is one of many timeless tributes to the glory of God –
glory  that meets us in a manner of God’s own choosing.

So shake your heads – clear your sight of the most recent incarnation of “Christmas”
(as wonderful as it may have been)
and let us set our sights on glory as it truly is.

“…the word became flesh, and lived among us…” –
where is the glory in that, you may wonder?
(The act of birth should hold more wonder for us – even in this modern medical age)
And yet our songs – our worship – our Sacraments –
and our mission as the church  pay tribute to this delicate mystery.
God with us.  Sharing and sending; walking and waiting;
Calling and challenging those first disciples,
and all who came after
to first of all acknowledge God –
and then to seek God’s pardon and peace.

Our greatest minds cannot agree on the method
– we have inherited creeds and formulas that pretend to explain,
for the sake of our insatiable curiosity, the ‘how’ of God’s coming in Christ.
For all that, we must admit that there is glory in it, this Incarnation.
Ordinary people were moved to change their lives – to abandon their careers –
to follow a man who spoke
of the grace, love, forgiveness and compassion of God
with an irresistible authority.
That seems to me to be a glory, not defined by angelic voices, or star-struck sages,
but  revealed inwardly – one changed life at a time.

That glory need not go into hiding with the ornaments and all our Christmas sentiment.
It is always simmering just beneath the surface.

Having revealed God’s glory in all its fullness,
Jesus left us,
not just the language; the vocabulary of glory –
but a new understanding of that vision of God
that has alternately thrilled and terrified our spiritual ancestors

And if our Christmas glory was seven part harmony – shouted from shimmering clouds
Jesus revealed glory could also include tender secrets whispered for our ears only.
For “…to all who received him,” John writes,
“… he gave the power to become children of God…” (John 1: 12)
God’s glory is offered to us in Christ; it is within our grasp – and it provokes our praise.

Because, in Christ, God walked among us – spoke our language –
shared our delights and grieved our sin,
we have been brought closer to God than any thought possible
well within the grasp of glory.
It  need not be loud thundering public displays of power:
Jesus allowed even our quiet, personal exchanges could become glory-ful.

Don’t think for a minute that the glory was in the season that is just past –
it was not in the decorations, or the feasting, or the generosity, or even the worship.
The glory is God – in Spirit – in Flesh – in Christ, for us
That quiet gift of Grace that knows no end.


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