“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10).
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have
seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace
and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was
he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead
of me because he was before me.'”) From his fullness we
have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given
through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is
close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
It was a silent and holy night for Francis, son of a prosperous merchant from the Italian village of Assisi. The young man, later to be known as “God’s Fool” and a saint, stood on a remote high mountain in La Verna. Overwhelmed by the creation and by its Creator, he raised hands toward heaven pleading: “Who are You and who am I?” (Ignacio Larrañaga, Brother Francis of Assisi“)
It was a life-changing night for Francis; he asked life’s two essential questions: “Who is God and who are we?” The answers we hear to those questions shape our lives.
Today’s Scripture takes up the God question by beginning with the obvious truth: “No one has ever seen God.” St. Augustine recognized this self-evident truth long ago: “No one has ever grasped the fullness of God, not by the eyes of the body, not even by the mind itself… no one has seen the fullness of his deity.” (Fathers of the Church: St. Augustine: Letters, Vol. 3) Here is the simple recognition that the infinite God of heaven and earth is beyond our wildest imaginings and fondest dreams. We cannot know God in His full essence, but we will spend eternity discovering!
The apostle Paul rejoices in God as beyond all comprehension: “the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Timothy 1:17b). Paul bows mind and heart before the God “alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:16).
Yet the Gospel good news is that the invisible God is made visible for us in Jesus! As Paul says, “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). He who “is close to the Father’s heart” reveals the unfathomable God to us. This means that Jesus can announce to the world, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9b).
Theologian Rowan Williams put it like this: “What is seen in Jesus is what God is; what God is is the outpouring of selfless love, which is the very essence of God’s definition, in so far as we can ever speak of a ‘definition’ of mystery.” (Rowan Williams, Token of Trust) While the omnipotence, omniscience and love of God are beyond all comprehension, we can still know and experience His grace and truth. Jesus is the light of God shining into our darkness, the Word, the perfect expression of what God is like. “God is Christlike and in him there is no unChristlikeness at all.” (A. M. Ramsey, God, Christ and the World)
The Word who became flesh answers the question, “What is God like?” God is just like Jesus: “full of grace and truth.” But, as French philosopher Blaise Pascal reminded, “Not only do we only know God through Jesus Christ, but we only know ourselves through Jesus Christ.” (Peter Kreeft, Christianity for Pagans) Christ reveals who God is by the way He gives Himself for others, and at the same time reveals who God created us to be through giving ourselves for others. Jesus is the revealer of who God is and who we are meant to be.
In John’s first letter he states yet again that no one has ever seen or fully grasped God. But as the invisible God is made visible in Jesus, so we can make God visible by loving others. “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12). If we love as Jesus loves, people will see God revealed in us. It will be a glory full of grace and truth!
Each Christmas I look forward to the Christmas Eve worship service that concludes with candle lighting. The sanctuary is darkened and the Christ Candle burns brightly at the altar. Then as we sing “Silent Night”, the light from the Christ Candle is passed to a worshipper, then to another and another until the sanctuary glows with the light of Christ’s glory.
For a world desperately asking what God is like, we can show them by loving as we are loved. As we bask in the love of God and then pass on that love to others, the invisible God becomes visible!
- How has the invisible God been made visible to me through the love ofanother?
- How does the life of the perfectly human Jesus reveal what it means forme to be more fully human?
PALMS DOWN/PALMS UP
For a moment hold your PALMS DOWN in a symbolic gesture of letting go to God your worries for the day, the busyness of the season, and expectations of the way the holidays ought to be. Release all of these concerns to God.
Next, hold your PALMS UP as a symbolic gesture of receiving God’s gifts, provision, and guidance for today.