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The Y in Glory is You!
December 25, 1988


Did you know that glory has a “u” in it? I imagine you've been spelling glory all these years; “glory” as spelled on our banner, but not realizing that glory has a”u” in it. We're looking for glory this Christmas. It has been our theme— looking for affirmation, recognition, appreciation, honor, joy, irrepressible joy, glory. Jesus told us real glory comes from God and not from our own achievements. In the Bible glory is the visible sign of God's presence, usually represented by light. To seek glory for Christmas, therefore, is to seek the presence of God. Glory is more than a present from God. It is wonderful to receive Christmas presents. And it's wonderful to receive presents from God. But the best present from God is not p r e s e n t s, but p r e s e n c e. Glory is God's presence.

In the sermons this Advent and Christmas, I’ve been spelling out the letters of “glory”. Grace stands for the “g” in glory. Receiving and experiencing God's presence begins with grace. Grace, like glory is a gift. Grace is the unmerited, unrestricted, immeasurable love that God has for you.

God expresses his love for you in many different ways using many different languages. Language stands for the “l” in glory. Holy Communion is one language God uses to speak to us. Holy Communion is the language of love. Next week, next Sunday, the first Sunday of the last decade of this century, we will begin the year with Holy Communion. Once again, the privilege of hearing God speak to us not just to our minds, but to all our senses, even our body through Holy Communion.

I chose ordinary for the “o” in glory, encouraging us to look for glory in the ordinary things of life and in ordinary relationships with ordinary people. Repentance, letting go of whatever is blocking God from moving in your life, repentance stands for the “r” in glory.

And today, Christmas Day, the sermon series on glory culminates in you. The “y” in glory is you. Yes, glory does have a “u” in it and that “u” is you. The text for this sermon is 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed by the Spirit of the Lord into Christ's likeness with ever increasing glory.” Paul says we are being changed into Christ's likeness with ever increasing glory. The spirit of the Lord, the Holy Spirit, is at work in us transforming us from finite, fallible human beings into the image of Christ Himself, with glory becoming an ever increasing part of our lives. Are you finding that to be true this Christmas? Is glory become an increasing part of your life? According to Paul in this passage, that's what God is all about. The Holy Spirit is at work in us bringing glory into our lives. The glory we see, the affirmation, recognition, appreciation, a sense of well being, a sense of wonder and joy is given to us by the Holy Spirit in increasing splendor, and the light becomes brighter and brighter as we become more and more like Jesus—looking like Jesus, looking more like Jesus and acting more like Jesus.

But how does this happen?  Paul says, “by beholding the glory of the Lord,” And the process is more than beholding or looking (our English word cannot convey the full meaning). The Greek word translated beholding literally means looking in a mirror. Comparing the differences in modern Bible translations is interesting. Revised Standard Version says, “beholding the glory of the Lord.” Good News Version, “reflect the glory of the Lord”. New English Bible, “reflect as in a mirror the splendor of the Lord.” Jerusalem Bible, “reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord.” Philips translation, “reflect like mirrors the glory of the Lord,” New International Version, “reflect the Lord's glory.”

So Paul is describing a process that is more than looking or beholding. Paul is describing an experience where the contemplation of God's glory changes us. It acts upon us and acts within us, so that we mirror, we reflect glory to others and the world. Glory becomes a part of us and begins to emanate from us to those around us and to the world. The Interpreter’s Bible uses an interesting phrase to explain the meaning of this passage, “We work out what God works in.” You can be transformed. You can be changed with increasing glory into the likeness of Jesus Christ. You can be changed.

John Houseman, acting teacher turned actor, died last month. When casting the movie Paperchase, they had difficulty finding the right actor to play the part of a crusty law professor. Someone remembered his teacher, John Houseman, and he got the part. He played the role and he won an Oscar from the Academy Awards. When he accepted the honor, he said, “Thank you for asking this aging and hopelessly obscure “schoolmarm” to play this glorious part.” His story is our story. At times, you may feel obscure. You may feel non-essential, insignificant, not worth much in the grand scheme of life. But, even though you and I may be bit players—bit players on the stage of life—we have each been given a glorious part. Through the grace of God communicated to you in languages you can understand, like the ordinary things of your life communicated to you is the glorious part you have been given to play.

Back in 1938, Robert May was an advertising copywriter for Montgomery Ward. One day his boss said, “I want you to write a folk story for a catalog booklet this year. We've been buying these little Christmas books for children each year and this year, we're going to produce our own and save some money. Write us a good story.” Robert May had a child at home and a dying wife from a terminal illness. He felt little inspiration for such a book; writing a happy book for children seemed an impossible task. The burdens of life weighed heavily upon his shoulders. Then he had a dream about writing a story about a reindeer. He went to the zoo and looked at the reindeer for ideas. He gave a suggested storyline to his boss. The boss reacted and said, “Too childish, nothing to it.”. So Robert May went home and that weekend he struggled. He sketched. He revised it. Then he read the new story to his dying wife and his child, and the child’s eyes sparkled.

The next day, he took the new story to his boss and his boss said, “I think you've got something here.” And yes, he did have something there. The story was so well received that music writers wanted to put music to it and publish it as a song but they were told, “No, the story belongs to the company.” The chairman of Montgomery Ward in a board meeting said the story belongs to the man who wrote it and is the property of Robert May. Now when you hear “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, remember how a young, introverted, shy writer, heavy with life’s burdens, worried about his dying wife, forced to write with an empty heart, poured out his inferiority, poured out his sense of obscurity and failure, poured out his anguish and his suffering into the character, Rudolph.  Rudolph the little reindeer who was teased, ashamed and embarrassed, Rudolph who felt so inferior to the other reindeer was transformed, was changed into becoming the lead reindeer when kindly old Santa Claus asked, “Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight.”

Rudolph found glory. His author found glory and you too can find glory. You too can be raised from obscurity to a glorious part in God's plan. How? Paul tells us by beholding, by gazing, by contemplating by reflecting the glory of God, by working out what God works in. In a very real sense we become what we look at. We become what we worship, we become what we put in our minds, we become what we imagine. When we behold the glory of the Lord, we gradually change into Christ's likeness, looking like Jesus, acting like Jesus, mirroring, reflecting Jesus’ glory, his love, his kindness, his gentleness, his toughness, and his concern for all people.

I recall the hymn, Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dimIn the light of his glory and grace.

Behold the Lord. Paul wrote magnificent, glorious words to his Christian friends in Philippi. Philippians 4:8,  “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there's anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” For you become what you think. Therefore, think, contemplate, gaze, study. Behold what is just what is pure, what is lovely, what is gracious. Behold Christ’s glory. and lo and behold, this Christmas there will be a huge glory— you!

© 1988 Douglas I. Norris