Can you see it? I invite you to stand up and look around you. Look at the person nearest you. And Remember the closest door may be behind your seat. Look – can you see?
This week I unpacked my box of blond-haired blue-winged angels and put them on the mantel shelf over my Cambridge fireplace. There must be 50 of them. Some are playing instruments – clarinet, harpsichord, drum. Some are pulling wagons laden with the abundance of the earth. One is tugging a sled with a pink ball, a tiny Christmas tree and a bunny. Several are holding tiny yellow stars aloft. As I opened every little box and liberated each celestial being from the tissue I almost heard “Glory to God in the Highest!”
Glory. What would it be like to actually see the Glory of God? Moses saw the splendor, the light, the Glory on the Mountain top when God came near him. (Exodus 33:18) The Prophet Isaiah was overwhelmed by the Glory when he was called to speak God’s words of warning and hope. (Isaiah 6:1) Just as God was with Moses in the wilderness – far from even the basic comforts, without even the daily bread to eat – God ‘s promise is to be with the people in exile. A once proud people have been spent a generation as prisoners of War. Some are living in crumbling cities. Others are consigned forced labor camps.
To these people Isaiah says: No more shall your children die in your arms because you can’t feed them, you can’t protect them from easily preventable disease. No more shall you give them birth only to have calamity snatch their lives. No more shall your parents perish before they have passed on their wisdom. No more shall the elders be forced to give up their place at the fire because there is not enough for all. No more shall you be disposed in the blink of an eye of everything you have worked for because you live in an expendable neighborhood, waiting for the rescue busses that never come. No more shall your gardens be raided, the trees razed, the taxes explode so you cannot afford to live in the house your father built. No more shall you spend the strength of your body and all your time working three jobs because you can’t earn enough to support your family. No more shall you be intent on eating a smaller fish before the sharks get you. No more shall your children go to war because they can’t afford to go to college. No more shall the children close to my heart be asked to kill another mother’s child because the men in suits trade in guns and oil.
To these people Isaiah declares that the people are a delight, God’s very own beloved. They are offspring blessed by the Lord. They shall not hurt or destroy on all God’s Holy Mountain. The Glory of the Lord, the very presence of God shall be near them, and shall bring them peace.
Again, and again God speaks promise of deliverance. The Voice in the Wilderness, echoed the words of Isaiah: prepare a way for the Light. A highway, a smooth road. Bring down the high mountains. The theophany, the very presence of the Glory of God is so near that the Splendor of the Holy walks among us, in the flesh, full of grace and truth. And the Glory of God was born, fully human. And the Glory of God lived a life of Love, fully human. And the Glory of God proclaimed the Good News – that no more shall men and women live with the constant sound of weeping. That Glory proclaims the path of peace is a real road. That Glory promises that we – you and I – wolves and lambs, lions and cattle, red and blue, are called the chosen children, the beloved people of God.
And what about the five hundred AIDS orphans the Anglican Churches of Kenya are supporting. Five hundred in each parish. How do they see the Glory of God? And what about the people in the highlands of Guatemala who have to choose between cooking fuel or deforested lands that can’t hold back the perennial mudslides. How do they see the Glory of God? And what about the mothers of Cameroon living in extreme poverty – folks known to our Diocese - and the other 1.1 billion people who have less than $1 today for their survival? And what about the ongoing genocide in Darfur? Where is the Glory of God for them?
As we approach this season of the Coming of the Christ – the coming of the Holy One into our very midst – let us remember the Cross and well as the Creche. Jesus our Brother wept with those in tears. Jesus our Rabbi taught us how to pray and how to resist the powers of this world who say: violence makes peace; hoarding our food is justified; withholding healing is lawful. Jesus our friend pleads with us – turn around, abide in love.
The poet Pat Michaels invites us to see the Glory in the dark places. He writes:
To those accustomed to success
the struggles of the poor may seem
a sign of their own carelessness,
a mark of incapacity;
And showing them abundant life
to let God’s love for them be known
might seem like planting seeds of strife,
when seeds of meekness should be sown.
So Jesus’ passion for the poor,
his love for them, his power to heal
were more than leaders would endure
against their strength his fate was sealed.
Nighttime arrest and violence,
the fear of death squads come to call,
become for him the consequence
of living poor and loving all.
The powers struck with violence
to grind his movement into dust:
there was no place for true defense
they thought their use of force was just.
Arrested, mocked, abandoned, killed,
his people stunned and paralyzed
yet just when hopes and dreams were stilled,
God’s passion for the poor would rise!
God’s love for all is risen indeed;
the poor shall be a living sign of God’s Good News
the smallest seed can grow into a spreading vine.
May we who follow Jesus way,
take heart and with the poor join hands
to struggle suffer, work and pray
till Love achieves what Hope demands.1
The Glory is the Love made flesh. The Glory of God is the power God gives us to overcome our fear and to be compassionate as Jesus was compassionate, to serve one another as Jesus served those he called his friends. The Glory is the reality that we are indeed God’s family, and that we can make a difference in the lives of our kinfolk.
The Glory is in the confidence we have when, in moment, we gather at Christ’s table that God will send the Holy Spirit upon us and grant that we burning with the Spirit’s power, may be a people of hope, justice and love. Look again – can’t you see the Glory shining forth right next to you?
1 “To Those Accustomed to Success” Pat Michaels © 1995 Used by permissionBack to the top