Today’s readings from Haggai speak of a time when the Israelites had returned to their Promised Land after exile in Babylon. However, their land seems to have lost much of its promise. The great temple in Jerusalem remains in ruins. Although the people have returned physically, there has been no spiritual restoration. The prophet Haggai sees the people’s sluggishness in rebuilding the temple as the problem, and urges them to action. Rebuilding the temple, Haggai states, will restore God’s glory to the land, and lead to the governor Zerubbabel being restored to David’s throne.
Although the temple was rebuilt, there is no account of God’s glory entering it as had happened with the temple built by Solomon. Nor did Zerubbabel become a new king. Israel would, in fact, remain under foreign control for centuries.
And yet, God’s glory would return. And God’s Anointed (the Messiah) would be revealed as not just a human king over the political realm of Israel, but as the King of all Creation. In the reading from John, Jesus notes how difficult it is for we humans to perceive God’s glory among us. It is seen, but remains hidden. Even Haggai’s magnificent vision of the ideal life for Israel fell short of what God would do in Christ. In Jesus, God’s glory would return to Israel, and would not be confined there, but would overflow to all the world. Though it can be difficult to see God’s light and glory filling the earth, that is our hope, and promise, in Christ.