God Comes Near - Glory Revealed

John 1: 1-14      Rev. Dr. Galen E. Russell III

Titus 2: 11-14   December 24, 2018

For the grace of God appeared, bringing salvation to all.”

Prayer:  Holy One, Holy Child, come near to us, we humbly pray.  Let your glory be revealed tonight to us.  Each one.  Amen.

Tonight we affirm God comes near in Jesus’ birth, and God’s glory is revealed!  I often associate God’s glory with lots of light.  Do you?  We will sing in a few minutes the Christmas carol “Silent Night.” It’s easy to think of light shining from heaven when we sing “Glories stream from heaven afar.”  I imagine light surrounding the “Heavenly hosts” of angels singing “Alleluia.”

Christmas comes on the calendar at the darkest time of the year.  Just this past Friday was the winter solstice.  We had the least amount of daylight for the entire year.  The further north you go, the amount of light grows less and less and night grows longer and longer.  At the north pole, there is total darkness, 24-7.  Right now.

As metaphors go, Christ’s glorious light coming in the darkness is a rather splendid one… the light of Christ is born into our lives and pushes back the darkness of meanness and ill-will.  The Son of God is born.  God comes near and we sing it’s “love’s pure light.”

It’s marvelous imagery until you realize that it’s only for those of us in the northern hemisphere.  Did you ever give that some thought?  While we are in a time of great darkness, those living in the southern hemisphere are in a time of great light.  The further south you go, the amount of light grows more and more, and night grows shorter and shorter.  At the south pole, there is total daylight 24/7—right now… this minute.  The sun never sets at this time of the year.

In a way, I like that imagery, too, because God’s great gift of salvation is born with the birth of Jesus.  God’s glory is revealed for the human race, and that gift is God’s light. It is present all the time.  24/7.  We read in the first letter of John “that God is light and in God there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1: 5).  It’s like total light, total glory, the light of the world that enlightens everyone.

This light, this abundant, universal saving grace, God’s glory revealed changes our lives.  When we believe it, when we accept it, it becomes part of us.  And, we work it out in our living.  What God works in, it becomes our responsibility to work it out.

And the best way is through love.  God comes near when we love.  God’s glory is revealed as we show universal acceptance and love.  To be loved fills all of us with hope and the promise of new life.

Radiolab had an episode in 2006 about two young art students who met at a party.  Emilie and Alan, and they fell deeply in love.  They were living the dream.  Then one day, on the way to class, Emilie was involved in a tragic accident—she was hit by a huge truck while riding her bike.  She was clinging to life.  Weeks went by with few signs of hope.  Finally, the doctors deemed Emilie completely unresponsive, and they made plans to have her live in a nursing home.  But, Alan believed there was hope.  He insisted, “She’s in there; she just can’t get out.  You have to give her a chance.”  Because Emilie sustained some hearing loss from her childhood days, she wore hearing aids.  In desperation to prove to the doctors that Emilie could get better, he tried something he read about in the story of Helen Keller.  Alan traced out the words, “I love you” on Emilie’s arm.  Emilie immediately responded.  So, Alan urged them to put in her hearing aids and turn them on.  When that happened, everything changed.  “Just by hearing his voice,” Emilie said, “I came back (Butler, Amy, “And Hear the Angels Sing,” Journal for Preachers, Advent 2018, Vol. XLII No. 1, p. 9).

You see?  To be loved fills us with hope for a promise of new life. God’s glory is revealed when we love.  God’s glory is revealed when God comes near. God’s glory is revealed tonight.  Love is born. It’s here. 24/7.  Amen.