St Stephen

Christmas Day 1997

John 1:16

We beheld his glory


We beheld his glory, the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth

three words, glory, grace and truth spring out from the Gospel for Christmas morning, a reading which has been heard by tradition not just at some Stephen's in 1997, but everywhere in the world and for many hundreds of years.

We shall be thinking of those three words in a moment, but first let us examine the word "beheld". When son John says we "beheld his glory".

To beheld it means much more than "to see" though of course the two processes have much in common. The English word "behold" doesn't just mean that something is visible to our eyes, but the it really has caught hold of an engaged our attention. The -hold bit of behold him plies as we say that something has "grand" arse. It's the same when we say that where beholden to someone: it means that they have got some kind of the hold upon us - either because they have done us some favour or simply because they are our children or our parents or because we are married to them.

In other words "to behold" something means to be in some kind of relationship to it, to engaged our minds with it to a far greater extent than merely to have seen it.

Take the example of the notice outside St Stephen's announcing at the Christmas tied services. Everyone who passes by it will see that notice unless they happen to be looking the other way or they are blind or walking around with their eyes shut. But of the thousands of people who have seen it only some will have "beheld" it to the extent of actually reading what it says and, maybe, have made up their minds to come to son Stephen's at midnight mass on this morning. For those people, whether many or few, the notice will have fulfilled its purpose because they will have stopped to behold it, not just "seen it".

"we beheld his glory full of grace and truth" says son John. Notice how he says we are and not by. He speaking on behalf not only for himself but his fellow apostles Peter, James, Andrew and the others, our Lord's mother, and infect all those, as many as accepted him as he says a few of verses previously, to whom "he gave power to become children of God, who believe in him".

"we beheld" reminds us that "be holding" he something best done in the company of other people for one very good reason. Two or more different people can look quite closely at the same object, behold it in other words, and besides the things of all can see in common, each can notice something that first escapes the attention of one or more of the others and draw their attention to it. "I see their midnight mass begins at 1130 says the first". "Yes, and you see they've got a Crim service for children on Christmas Eve" says the second. "I notice that the 10 o'clock on Christmas Day" says the third "I wonder if my mother would like to come to that now she can't manage midnight any longer". And those three separate "sightings" or "the holdings" of the notice board may cause the other behold us to think on the same lines.

Now let us we attack the words "we beheld" to the three things "truth, glory and grace" as they appear in today's Gospel written by someone who would not only seen the Incarnation of God Almighty in the Person of Jesus Christ but spent a lifetime thinking about it or behold in it.

First of all "race". Grace is something which many people become more where of as a feeling: it has something in common with "beauty". We just know when we see it for the first time that a particular landscape, or mountain range, a human face, a piece of music or a painting is beautiful.. It just tracks us that way. We get a word Charismatic from the same route as the Greek word trance leaked in grace in today's reading. A person who is charismatic, be a preacher or a politician or a school teacher is someone who we instinctively recognise as being special.

Save our there are many people were have been led to Christ by their feelings. Perhaps they have come to a church like ours and "beheld his grace" either run what they have seen happening in the Mass, or in the sheer loveliness of the people who come here Sunday by Sunday and to comprise the Body of Christ in this place. Don't ever let us underestimate the "grace" factor as the driving force for changing people's lives.

But if our knowledge of Jesus Christ goes no further than "be holding his grace" it is a very fragile thing. What happens for instance if we move house to a different part of the country were the local churches unfriendly, the services carelessly performed, it and the preach a sermon consists of sharing some ideas which come to him as he was looking at himself in the shaving mirror that self-same morning?

The sad fact is that many people, especially young people who have faithfully attended the local Church, ceased to go altogether when they move elsewhere. And the reason for this is not just because they prefer to remain in bed on Sunday mornings, but because being feelings-driven the grace they experience in than unification is far less obvious or familiar than the kind they have been use to.

So be holding the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ mean something else to underpin it, something which will not change from one place to another.

That Something is called the Truth. It's the faith which we believe and Professor every time we say the Creed, which is a kind short and summary of what is called a the Catholic Faith.

It's a common man very serious mistake to think that only intellectual people are expected by God to use the mines when it comes to considering the truth. On the contrary Jesus himself said that some truths about God at any rate are better understood by children and they are by the "wise and prudent". God reveals his true to us in many different ways and the mind of a child is no less qualified to behold, to be grabbed by some aspects of it than the mind of a University Professor of Theology!

That is why the sermon is such an important part of the liturgy. For in the sermon, and in the readings which preceded, the word of God is broken open and its CD is spread abroad in to wire minds and hearts that we "through patience on strengthening of God's holy word may have hoped" as St Paul writes.

So besides grace and the truth is something for us to behold, to be grabbed by, to be beholden to, and it is by using a mines, a witness, our imagination however big or small they may be that we learn to grow in our understanding of what it means to be the People of God.

But grace and truth, feelings and mind, will only engaged part of my whole be. The sort of person who were only brings his mind or his feelings to bear upon his relationship with God, or even a combination of the two is missing out on a whole dimension, and absolutely fundamental dimension of our relationship with God which is encapsulated in the word Glory.

Now glory is on something that we feel (slight grace, nor something that we think about it (slight truth) its, but it is something vitally need to another word "Worship".

When St John says we "beheld his glory" our instinctive reaction should not be too "Felix" nor should it be true, "think about it" but, like the angels of God, to fault wire knees and worshipped him.

For in the end, in the very end, grace and truth on only means to that end, and Martin's in themselves. This is a fact which all the greatest teachers of the faith, all the greatest spiritual directors will have helped people to behold the grace of God, all acknowledged: namely that it is only by behold in the glory of God and becoming his worshippers in spirit and in truth that we shall become a kind of beings which God created us to be.

Now it is one thing to say we should "behold his glory" and another actually to do so. But here again the word behold can come to our rescue.

Remember those three people were "be holding" the notice board? As they focus their attention on it each one of them picks up a different aspect of it which he is able to share with the others, giving each of them a more complete picture than they could never have got on their own.

Well Worship is a bit like that. It's an activity in which all the creatures of God shared together. The heavens declarer the glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork, the angels of God saying the song "glory to God in the highest"; the Virgin Mary sings the Magnet decant a "my soul doth magnify the Lord"; the Church on earth sings "we give thanks to the for my great glory"; the faithful departed with unveiled faces behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ reflects the glory of the Father which she shared with him since the beginning of the world.

Behold in his glory, full of grace and truth, is a process which involves every part of us. It engages our feelings, our mines, but most especially it involves our wills. For it is those who diligently seek him in spirit and in truth. "The our is coming and now we is" said Jesus "when the true worshippers shall Worship the Father in spirit and in truth because we have seen and believed on the one of whom he has sent our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ very God of very God of one substance with the Father.

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