First Sunday After Christmas
December 27, 2020
“We Have Seen His Glory”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Our text is from John 1:14. “We have seen his glory.” These five words will change our lives. These five words will change our life, forever, “We have seen his glory.”
For 51 years Bob Edens was blind. Bob couldn’t see a darn thing. His world was a black hole. But, in spite of that, Bob graduated from Furman University, got married, had a daughter, even coached Little League baseball. Through it all, though, Bob Edens was blind. Blind as a bat. He felt his way through five decades of darkness. And then, he could see. Bob Edens could see! A surgeon repaired a detached retina and performed a corneal transplant. For the first time in his life, Bob Edens could actually see! He found it overwhelming. “I never would have dreamed that yellow is so yellow. I can see the shape of the moon. I like nothing better than seeing a jet plane flying across the sky leaving a vapor trail. And of course, sunrises and sunsets. Those are my favorite colors – orange and red.” (He must not have been from Denver – we all know the colors to be orange and blue!)
Let’s be honest. We all suffer from some form of blindness. It’s amazing, isn’t it? Just because we witness a rainbow a thousand times doesn’t mean we have seen its beauty. We can plant a garden and fail to see the splendor of its flowers. And we can attend church, sing Christmas carols, feel faithful and festive and still fail to see him. Him? I’m talking about Jesus.
Today God invites us to truly see Jesus. John saw Him. He writes in our text, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John doesn’t say, “We glanced” or “We glimpsed.” John doesn’t stand in the back of the room or listen to someone else describe Jesus. No, John focuses and fixes his own eyes and John says that he got to see Jesus. He got to see the glory of Jesus.
And that is what I want to happen today, among us. I want us to see Jesus clearly. I want us to see the very glory of Jesus. Seeing Jesus, as you may know, is one of the major themes in the book of John.
- See, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)
- Philip invites Nathaniel to Jesus with the words, “Come and see.” (John 1:46)
- The Samaritan woman speaks to the folks in her town, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.” (John 4:29)
- On Palm Sunday the words are spoken, “See, your King comes to you.” (John 12:15)
- On that same day some Greeks come to Philip and say, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” (John 12:21)
- On Easter morning Mary is beside herself when she says, “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18)
- And look at what the blind man says, “I was blind but now I see.” (John 9:24)
What do we want to see? Glory. Glory? We think of it in the most amazing ways. We want to see and witness the great things of God. When we think of glory we think of the most majestic and beautiful and powerful and glorious. Glory is when Jesus walked on water or rose Lazarus from death. Glory is when He was transfigured and His face shown like the sun.
But John puts a much fuller understanding of what glory means to God. When John wrote this verse, and all the others, the supreme glory of Jesus meant His suffering, death and then His resurrection. On Palm Sunday, with the face of Jesus looking straight toward the cross coming that Friday, He would say, The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (John 12:23) In the upper room, right after Judas Iscariot leaves to betray him for 30 pieces of silver, Jesus says, “Now is the Son of Man glorified.” (John 13:31). And just before His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus says in John 17:1, “Father, the hour has come, glorify your Son.” Get it? Glory comes not just in the greatest moments of splendor and awe, they come in the hardest moments of redemption and suffering. Do you see? Have you seen? I want you to see the full glory of Jesus. If you see that glory your life will never be the same.
I just marvel at how God brings days together and accomplishes His will in them. Friday, December 18, was a full day for me. I had things scheduled from early morning until I headed home in the evening. I was scheduled to visit with some folks who have been coming to our worship services at 2:00. So, when I heard the door open a few minutes after 2:00 I thought it would be them. But it wasn’t. It was a former neighbor of this area who had spent the last 35 years of his life in prison. He had just gotten out and came to see how our church building looked and wanted to pick up the Portals of Prayer. As he looked around he couldn’t believe the trees. He remembered when they were just tiny twigs put in the ground. Now they climb five stories high. In 35 years lots of things change.
He told me that God was doing great things during this virus. He has seen how Christians and churches are serving those deeply affected by the virus in amazing ways. He said he has seen Christians looking for opportunities to serve God and others at this time. This man, just about my age, said “Jesus is being glorified in all of this.”
We see the problems that the virus has caused, in so many ways, but can we see the glory of God shown in these most troubling times? Then after our time together, my 2:00 appointment came in, apologizing for being late. As I thought of it, I was glad how God allowed them to be late so I could hear the witness of that man who had just gotten out of prison. My life was made richer by God allowing that day to be changed for my good and for those I got to see.
Do you see the glory, the brilliance of God in the account of the Gospel reading for today? It was the account of Simeon seeing the baby Jesus and then his conversation with Mary, the mother of Jesus. “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32) It was glorious for Simeon who was told that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ to have that moment fulfilled.
But then he speaks to Mary about the full extent of glory – for her Son was to be the sacrifice for man’s sins. “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35)
Do you know the glory of His coming and dying and rising is all about? It is all about you. It is all about us. Jesus came for the soiled and the shamed. Jesus came for those who are sickened by what they see in their lives. You and I have to go see Jesus.
You know what happened with the shepherds after they saw the angels, don’t you? They went to see the child. “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.” (Luke 2:16-17)
How about the Magi, the wisemen? It was not enough for them to see the star. They had to see the child. “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him.” (Matthew 2:10-11)
They all saw Him. We have to see Him. See Him and His amazing birth. See Him and His compassionate life. See Him and His saving death. See Him and His victorious resurrection.
With the eyes of your heart see Him clearly. “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Amen!!
(This sermon is adapted from the series, “The Word Became Flesh” from Concordia Seminary Press, 2017)