Christmas Day A: New Lenses for the Eyes of Our Spirits

The readings for Christmas Day are

Old Testament      Isaiah 52:7–10

Psalm                    Psalm 98

New Testament     Hebrews 1:1–4 (5–12)

Gospel                   John 1:1–14

This past year I have been living inside a parable of the Incarnation. Here now is that parable:

Once there was a pastor named John, who went for an eye exam. His ophthalmologist told him he had cataracts, and scheduled him for surgery.

Pastor John didn’t like the idea of eye surgery. He pictured himself strapped to a gurney with a surgeon poking needles in his eye. At first he thought his doctor should know what he is talking about, and that he was getting himself worked up over nothing. And, besides, his wife and many of his friends had had cataract surgery in the past, and it was a piece of cake. And they often said they wished they had the surgery much sooner than they did.

But Pastor John couldn’t shake those thoughts of needles in his eye; and he talked himself out of it. He saw brochures with little fuzzy pictures of before cataract surgery, and clean and crisp pictures from after. He heard that with cataracts all the headlights at night had evil spooky looking halos around them He thought, “My vision isn’t that bad.”

So, Pastor John called the doctor and said, “No surgery for me.”

But soon he did start seeing halos. When he went out to the barn at night he saw a great big halo around the barn light. And soon Pastor John started grumbling a lot because when he watched murder mysteries on TV, and the big turning-point-clues always came up on the suspect’s Smartphone; and for the life of hi,m Pastor John couldn’t read what it said. “Why do they do that? They surely can’t expect people to read those things!”

And he grumbled louder when he watched those mysteries set in Scotland and Wales, and he had to read subtitles to know what was going on, and no matter how much he squinted or crouched up closer to the set, he couldn’t read them. And he took to disliking the subtitle makers for torturing people by making the font so blasted small.

So, finally Pastor John went back to the eye doctor and scheduled his cataract surgery. But then came Covid, and surgeries had to be put on hold. And then he himself got Covid and had to postpone again. And then he got a bad cold and coughed for three weeks and had to postpone again. All the while he grumbled more and more about those darn Smartphone clues and blurry subtitles. “What kind of evil world are we living in where the leaves on the trees are just smudges, and where television tortures my eyes this way?”

Finally Pastor John had surgery on his left eye. They took out the old lens and put in a new one. And by the very next day, it was a miracle! He held up his hand over his old right eye, and the world, seen through that left one was bright and crisp. He held up his hand over the left, and the world through the right eye was much duller and blurred.

Pastor John had forgotten what the world looked like. Birds had feathers. The branches of the spruces and firs had tiny, individual needles on them – not just a smeary blobs of green. And, yes, one could actually read those Smartphone clues and subtitles on the TV screen. The TV producers weren’t messing with us. God in nature wasn’t messing with us. The world was okay.

The Gospel of John tells us this:

Jesus was born in this world to be the light of all people—the light that shines in our darkness.

Jesus is the Word.

God became flesh for us to see.

Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, lived among us and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Later in the Gospel Jesus tells us about the man born blind whom Jesus heals. Some people who think they have all the answers became angry because Jesus healed this man on the Sabbath day when there laws said no work was to be done, and so it confused them. Was Jesus from God, or was he a great sinner against God.

When Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind,” those same people who had all the answers complained, “Surely we are not blind, are we?”Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

It’s funny how blindness and cataracts sneak up on us. Everything gets dimmer and more blurred. And it’s easy to forget what reality looks like. It’s easy to grumble and blame other people and God for how messed up the world is.

It’s easy for us to see things, but not really see them. We get uneasy about letting God into our lives to change the way we see things. Having to change the way we see things is frightening and painful. We think we see, but we don’t.

So, miracles happen and we miss them.

Nature is so magnificent that it sings God’s praises, but we don’t notice.

God’s love surrounds us, but we miss it.

We think, “Surely we aren’t blind, are we?”

What cataract surgery does for our physical eyesight, Jesus, the Word made flesh, does for our spiritual sight. The Holy Spirit works through the Incarnation and creates the gift of faith through it, and gives us spiritual eyesight into the way the world really is. All nature looks different. The people we love look different. The people we hate too.

Father Richard Rohr, a man who is quite famous as a writer on spiritual things, says, “Our image of God creates us.” What he means is that if we see God as that angry rule enforcer, we start looking for broken rules, and people to punish. We become more and more bitter with a broken world. When our eyes are opened by the faith God gives us, we see God in Jesus. Then we see a God who gives and forgives—a God who lays down his life for all people. Our lives are created and recreated with the light and love of Christmas bursting out all over.

When Jesus was born among us, the Word became flesh. God took on flesh, and dwelt right here among us, full of grace and truth. We get new lenses for our eyes. So the eyes of our spiritual minds can now see what we had been missing for so long.

The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

those who lived in a land of deep darkness—

on them light has shined (Isaiah 9:2).   

Thanks be to God!

About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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