John 1: 1 – 5; 10 – 18 The Face of Love   December 27, 2020

John 1: 1 – 5; 10 – 18

 (preached on December 27, 2020)

 Like a lot of proud grandmothers, for years I’ve covered my refrigerator door with photos of my kids and grandkids.  A few years ago, I added a different kind of photo to the display.  It’s the kind that wasn’t available till recently.  It’s a print out of the ultrasound my son and daughter in law had, when my grandson was on the way.  It continues to amaze me that today’s medical technology made it possible to see my little grandson taking shape in his mother’s womb.  We can now can see many things about a baby months before he is born.

Months before the child is born, the ultrasound can show the feet, head, and other features.  It’s often possible to tell the gender of the child too.  But, even with this amazing technology, there’s still plenty of mystery about the little one on the way.  Much still remains unknown until the moment the baby is born and takes her first breath.  That’s when Mom and Dad finally see the face of their child.  They see the unique configuration of features: the eyes, nose, and mouth they’ve been longing to see.

As Mary waited for Jesus to be born, most likely she also longed to see his face.  She must have wondered what her little one would look like.  She must have wanted to hold him in her arms and see at last the little eyes, nose, and mouth that would make up his one-of-a-kind face.  Finally, on a cold night in a clammy stable, tired from a long journey and far from home, she and Joseph first behold the face of their baby boy.  Here at last is the long awaited One:  the One Gabriel had promised, the Son of the Most High.

Our passage for this morning is the beginning of John’s gospel.  It is beautiful poetry: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.  The Word was with the Creator at the creation of all things.  It’s beautiful, but it all sounds a bit abstract.  But the birth of Jesus tells us that there’s nothing abstract about the love of God.  God’s love is not an abstract idea to be explained; it’s a wonder to be experienced.  It’s a love that’s longing to see and hear and touch.  Out of that longing, the Word became a human being.  God entered into human life, so that the love that is God’s very nature would be something we could see and hear and touch.  The Word became flesh and love would now have a face.

The face of love was the face of this baby Jesus.  In his tiny face, Joseph and Mary saw the hopes of their people fulfilled.  The darkness in which they had walked was dispelled by a great light.  Unto them a child was born, whose name would be Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

The years went by and the child grew.  His face took on the more distinctive features of a man’s face.  As he grew, the man felt more and more powerfully God’s presence at his very core.  So he left home and traveled around the region, talking to people, listening to their fears and hopes and their needs.  As he ministered among them, his face became the face of love for many.  Here are some of the people for whom the face of Jesus became the face of love.   A man who had been born blind, a beggar whose eyes were opened by the touch of Jesus’ hand.  Jesus’ face was the one that looked with compassion on a woman who had been hunched over for years by a crippling illness, until he helped her stand up tall.

A father, desperate to save his daughter’s life, saw in the face of Jesus assurance of God’s care and hope for her recovery.  A sister knew she was not alone in grief when she saw tears well up in Jesus’ eyes at the news that her brother, his friend Lazarus, was dead.  On a grassy hillside a multitude of people could see, even from a distance, the radiance that shone from Jesus’ face as he spoke of the God he called Father.

Jesus’ face was also a face that didn’t flinch at the sight of the powerful.  He looked the high and mighty in the eye.  His face stared down the hypocrites.  He didn’t smile at the boasting of the rich.  So he made some enemies.  Because his enemies were rich and powerful, and Jesus’ way was not the way of earthly power, they arrested him and put him to death.

But God was determined that love would have a face, so God raised Jesus from the dead.  The news of his glorious resurrection spread among his followers, and their faces began to resemble his face.  Their hearts were on fire with his message, and their faces took on the features of love.  They traveled all over Judea and up to Asia Minor, and even as far away as Rome, reaching people in their loneliness and need: feeding their hunger and mending their brokenness.  In their faces the downtrodden caught a glimpse of the freedom they would find when they followed the resurrected One.  People who had been unable to walk jumped and danced for joy.  People whose lives had felt like dead ends found new life and new hope.

As the centuries went by, thousands of faces took on the look of the face of love.  The face of love spread throughout the world.  It shone forth in a million different colors and expressions.  Now, on this Sunday after Christmas, we gather, thousands of years after two tired parents gazed for the first time on the face of Jesus.  We sing praises and rejoice that the Word has become flesh and love has a face.  We pray that our faces, like his, will become the face of love.

In a few minutes, we will leave this place.  As we go out into the world, what will our faces say?  Will God’s love be visible on your face?  Will it be visible on mine?  Will God’s love be visible when we go home?  Will your face say to your spouse or your child, “I am here for you, no matter what the future brings?”  Will our faces be faces of love when we are far from home?  Will my face say to a stranger, “Don’t be afraid; you’re not alone. You’re cared for by a God who loves you more than you can possibly imagine.”  Will our faces shine with the joy of children of God?

Because Jesus was born, love is not an abstract idea.  Love has a face.  As you and I go out from this place today, may the face of God’s love shine forth from your face, and my face, and from the faces of all who seek to follow.

 

Rev. Elva Merry Pawle

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