Take Note

A Service of Lessons and Carols

Thurs., Nov. 30, 7:00 p.m., Ligon Chapel; free and open to the public

Savior of the Invisible

Chapel Sermon

Jean Rodgers Chapel, Huntingdon College
October 18, 2017
Text: John 1.1-14

I am an invisible man. No, I am not a [ghost] like those who haunted Edgard Allen Poe; nor am I … of … Hollywood. …

I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I … possess a mind. I am invisible … simply

because people refuse to see me. … When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or

figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.

(Ralph Ellison, “Invisible Man”)

So says the hero in Ralph Ellison’s novel about what it is like to be marginal in America—”Invisible Man.” And, indeed, the world—Huntingdon College, even—is full of invisible women, invisible men, invisible girls, invisible boys. They may be white, black, Hispanic, Asian, interracial; they may be straight or gay; they may be Christian or not Christian. Even in a place as small as Huntingdon, where we feel that Huntingdon family connection, we see them but don’t see them. We walk around campus—the Green, Flowers Hall, our residence halls, our classroom buildings, our athletic fields and courts, our places of worship in Ligon Chapel, and Rodgers Chapel, and Drum Theater. And we see them but don’t see them. They blend into our landscape. Our eyes take it … and them … all in. But unless I spend time at the beginning or end of the day to think back on the day just past, or unless for some reason I am acutely in tune with my surroundings on a given day, so much of what I see just does not register. I see, but I do not see. And that’s how the person next to me, the person in front of me, the person who just passed me, becomes invisible.

Yes, the world is full of invisible people. Jesus was born that way. Invisible. Oh, to be sure, in Matthew’s and Luke’s stories about the birth of Jesus, there are plenty of people who see him. There are shepherds who leave their fields and go to the manger. There are three kings who travel from far away to worship the King of Kings. But to most of the world, and certainly to Bethlehem, this newborn babe is invisible. No room in the inn. Wrapped in bands of cloth—swaddling clothes—and laid in a manger. Laid in a food trough normally reserved for the cattle-a-lowing. Invisible. No wonder Saint John would later write about Jesus that although he was in the world, in fact although the world had been made through him, the world did not know him. Great as Jesus was … and is … the world chose … and chooses … not to see him.

Yet, that invisibility is the clue to what Jesus was … and is … all about. God comes to earth in a rather invisible way—born to a peasant couple far away from home, in a barn. A young pregnant girl comes to an inn to spend the night. What kind of person turns away a pregnant girl from his inn? Someone who is blind; someone who cannot see; someone, who in his blindness makes Mary and her unborn child invisible. Jesus was invisible from the word, “Go,” in this world. And did you ever stop to think that the barn in which he was born must have been filled with others turned away from that same inn, other invisible women and men, boys and girls, other rejects who had neither the social standing, nor the money, nor the gumption to rate a hotel room? Jesus, the invisible baby, born in a barn full of invisible people. He was to devote his ministry to them when he grew up. And today he invites us, his body, to do the same. Ours are the hands and feet of Jesus.

The little children whom the disciples wanted to send away; the disabled man by the healing pool who had lain there so long that no saw him any more; the woman with the flow of blood who had been desperately sick for so many years and who, lost in a mob around Jesus, reached out to touch Jesus’ robe, hoping to to be healed even though she knew she was invisible to Jesus. They were all invisible to everyone. Everyone, that is, but Jesus.

Jesus felt the power flow from him when the woman touched him, and he turned around and searched her out of the crowd. He took the time for the desperately sick woman, the disabled man by the pool, the children too unimportant for the disciples. Jesus was the one who saw and, in his seeing, turned the invisible people into the most important people in his life at that moment.
What is it like to be invisible? If you are invisible, you don’t count. Have you ever been made to feel that you don’t count? If you are invisible, you are not a priority. Not only are you not a priority, you are very possibly a nuisance. It is a terrible thing, is it not, to feel that you don’t count, that you are on the bottom of someone’s list of priorities? Invisible.

But oh how good it is when we are made visible, when someone sees us—really sees us. What makes a person visible is the same thing that makes a person invisible. It’s the attitude of the beholder. One attitude says, “You don’t count. You are not important to me. I choose not to see you.” The other attitude says, “You count. You are important to me. I choose to see you and make you a part of my life.”

It is in the lives of the invisible people—ourselves included, probably more often than we want to admit we are invisible—it is in the lives of the invisible people that we find our Lord Jesus at work. Someone has to care for the invisible, and it is Jesus — working through people who are willing to take the time to see. As John Ruskin has said: “The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something. … Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, and thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is … religion [in its highest form].”

The invisible man, the invisible woman, the invisible boy, the invisible girl who did not rate a room in the same inn that turned away a pregnant girl who would give birth to the Savior of the Invisible. There they were sleeping in the straw next to the manger of Jesus. Invisible but, in their invisibility, the very point of the Gospel story. When no one else would see, God saw, and himself became human and entered the world as an invisible baby. Someone had to care. God did; God does; and hopefully so do God’s people, you and I.