Shorter Words Are Harder
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a [parent’s] only son, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14 (NRSV)
If you’re a churchgoing person – virtually or IRL these days – I bet you heard this verse at least once this Christmas season. It’s part of what they call John’s “Hymn to the Word.” The whole thing is ethereally, almost ineffably lovely. It reads like an incantation or a spell, each word quivering with deep potentiality.
Most of it floats in the far distance, either on the other side of the veil where cosmic forces dance, or in the mists of time. It’s easy to appreciate at such safe distances. But there’s this one point where it touches down in the flow of time, like the tip of a tornado in our midst: the word “we.” “We” have seen his glory. We have? I’ve seen his glory? You have? Do you remember what it looked like, the glory of the Word made flesh? Can you remind me?
Honestly, when it comes to eternal beings, I prefer ethereality, distance. When it comes to belief, I find words like “potentiality” and “ineffability” much simpler to deal with than words like “here,” “now,” “we.” It’s so much easier to talk about cosmic dances than it is to claim with a straight face that I’ve seen God’s glory. And by the way, what if I haven’t?
On the other hand, that’s what Epiphany – the church season we’re about to enter – means: a revelation of God in the world. Not just there, but here. Not just then, but now. So I guess that “we” is fair. If all of us haven’t seen it, surely some of us have. So let’s make a deal: if you have, will you tell me? And if I have, I promise to tell you, too.
Teach me to tell of your glory, O God – in words of fewer than four syllables. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.