Second, face. I wonder how you feel about your own face. Certainly, it bears a lot of your history. It’s true, isn’t it, that a lot of what we go through in life gets etched into our faces; and it’s also true that we read a lot about others by looking at their faces. That’s why face-coverings have made it so hard for us to relate well to one another: we all instinctively try to look one another in the face. We know the value of our masks: we have learned that we can catch and can transmit the virus through mouth and nose, so we readily wear our masks in order to protect ourselves and others. But it is a deprivation: faces matter in relationships.
So, then think about the face of the baby Jesus then, and about Mary and Joseph, looking down, with love beaming out of their faces at the new-born Christ-child. The truth at the heart of the Christmas story is an extraordinary one – that in the birth of Jesus, God himself has come among us, God became incarnate, made human for us. Listen again if you would to the first and last words of our Gospel reading tonight: in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God; and the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
Christians believe that when we look into the face of Jesus, we see the face of God revealed. And we believe that what we see in that face is grace and truth. Of course, these days, we mostly use the word grace to describe physical movement – in dance perhaps, like Oti Mabusi on Strictly, full of grace. But the Bible uses the word to describe Jesus’ character, and the character of God – not referring to physical movement, though yes, still referring to a kind of beauty. But it is the beauty of mercy, of generous favour, of undeserved kindness.
And of course these days, we mostly use the word truth in relation to facts – and perhaps in the USA and in the UK too, 2020 has seen at least the start of a return of respect for facts, for science, for experts after several years in which we have endured the politics of fake and fantasy. But when the Bible speaks about the truth which we see in the face of Jesus and in the face of God, again it refers to character – to trustworthiness and integrity, reliability and steadfastness.
Read it all.