That day is called the birthday of the Lord on which the Wisdom of God manifested Himself as a speechless Child and the Word of God wordlessly uttered the sound of a human voice. His divinity, although hidden, was revealed by heavenly witness to the Magi and was announced to the shepherds by angelic voices. With yearly ceremony, therefore, we celebrate this day which saw the fulfillment of the prophecy…(St. Augustine sermon clxxxv)
Tonight, we come to the cradle, the cratch, the manger, and the cave in Bethlehem to worship God’s own Word made flesh beginning with a meditation upon the Incarnation by St. Augustine of Hippo. From the human side of this reality we can hear only silence. First, there is the silent wonder born out of silent humility, and then more silent contemplation that urges us onward to the silent fixation that we shall find in this child’s earthly Mother. Second, there is the wonder and awe borne out of the integrity, decency, and honor of the one who shall become the child’s Foster-Father. Third, there is the silence of the child himself. From the child, the only sounds that emerge are the inarticulate cries of a new-born babe. The sound of this human voice must be heard. But first it is not to be understood. Why should it? God doesn’t force Himself upon anyone. The gift of God in Jesus Christ must make its way into the unruly, antagonistic, unfriendly, and hostile world of men and their false gods. The gift of God’s redemption for us that will be found in this child shall not be received truly and sincerely until it is heard by the ears of the human heart. The child’s message cannot be heard until we cherish the Word that will be heard. So first, in faith, we must welcome God in Christ who comes to us in an unthinkable, unusual, unpredictable, and unlikely way.
Jesus Christ is God’s eternally begotten Wisdom and Truth. St. Augustine tells us that,
Truth is sprung out of the earth: and righteousness hath looked
down from heaven. Truth, eternally existing in the bosom of the
Father, has sprung from the earth so that He might exist also in
the bosom of a mother. Truth, holding the world in place, has
sprung from the earth so that He might be carried in the hands
of a woman. Truth, incorruptibly nourishing the happiness of
the angels, has sprung from the earth in order to be fed by human
milk. Truth, whom the heavens cannot contain, has sprung from
the earth so that He might be placed in a manger. (Idem)
For the truth of God’s Word to be made flesh it must express itself as human from the beginning of life until the end. Truth must be embraced from conception until death. The truth that rules and governs the universe must be welcomed as a precious child. It must be cherished, treasured, loved, and cared for with attentive devotion. We must discover its future potency with hope in every moment of human existence. It longs to be seen and loved in earliest moments of conception when a mother who cares for herself because she lives for her baby joyously anticipates the extreme joy of new life that birth brings. It yearns to be seen and loved in childbirth and nursing. It will insist that it can and must be found in poverty and need, and thus over and against the presence of all earthly comforts. But its presence can be found truly and its love felt keenly only with the bare minimum of earthly distractions and worldly temptations. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. (St. John i. 14)
Jesus Christ is God’s Word, Wisdom, and Truth made flesh. God did not send His Son into the world for His own advantage. He is God. He needs nothing. He sends His Son because He wants us, desires us, yearns for us, and longs for our reconciliation with Himself. God wants to share His own great goodness with us so that we might enjoy it with Him forever. Silently and quietly we must go to the Manger. With all humility and meekness, we must contemplate the manner in which our God comes to us. Selflessly and generously we must bring our hearts and souls to Him in order to see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. (St. Luke ii. 15) St. Augustine rouses us to stir, to awaken, to leap up and to follow the message of the angels:
Arouse yourself, O man; for you God has become man.
Awake thou that sleepest, and rise up from the dead, and Christ
Shall give thee light! For you…God
has become man. If He had not thus been born in time,
you would have been dead for all eternity. Never would
you have been freed from sinful flesh, if He had not taken
upon Himself the likeness of sinful flesh. Everlasting misery
would have engulfed you, if He had not taken this merciful
form. You would not have been restored to life, had He not
submitted to your death; you would have fallen, had He not
succored you; you would have perished, had He not come. (Idem)
Imagine if Christ had not been conceived by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. Think about where we would be if Jesus Christ had not been born in time, in poverty, welcomed by His own people with doubt, suspicion, rejection, and hatred. Imagine if He had not suffered and died for us. Think about how we would still be living under the curse of the Law and faced with the certainty of an eternal death. Think about how Heaven would be still the distant dream of prophets who wait and philosophers who wonder. Think about how the Law of Sin and Death would have become harder and colder. Think about how human freedom would not yet have been found to be the wellspring of man’s pursuit of excellence in all arts and sciences.
On Christmas Night, Christ is born in Bethlehem of Judaea. On Christmas Night, Christ enters time and space for just long enough to call us into another kind of death, His Death on Calvary, for just long enough to call us back into the short span of Resurrected life that leads back to God the Father, for just long enough to offer to us pattern for our own short stay and journey through creation.
Let us joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and
redemption. Let us celebrate the festal day on which the great
and timeless One came from the great and timeless day to this
brief span of our day. He has become for us ... righteousness, and
sanctification, and redemption… (Ps. lxxxv 11) (Idem)
Will truth spring out of our earth, the earth of our fleshly selves, for us tonight as righteousness comes down from Heaven once again? Is the Word really going to be born in our hearts and souls? Will the Word be Made Flesh in us tonight? Or are we people of the Law of Sin and Death? Will we keep God on the outside of ourselves, at a safe distance, not too dangerously close so that He might bring us into a death that must precede tonight’s New Birth? If He does come into us, He expects to be born. And if He is to be born, He must be born as Wisdom and Power that issues forth into the world as Love. He cannot born in us if we behold His truth but do not embrace it in our hearts. He cannot be born in us if we have time for the lofty ideals and notions of the Christian religion but no time for intending to please God with all of their lives. Will Christ be born in our hearts and souls tonight? As we speak this night, many Christians will depart this life never having shown that world that Christ is being born again and again in human hearts. Will we be determined to show the world that we Christ is born into the world? Will we show that,
Truth is sprung out of the earth because Christ who said: ‘I am the truth’ was born of a virgin; and righteousness hath looked down from heaven because, by believing in Him who was so born, man has been justified not by his own efforts but by God. Truth is sprung out of the earth' because 'the Word was made flesh/ and 'righteousness hath looked down from heaven' because 'every good and perfect gift is from above.’ (Idem)
We can give out the gift only if our faith in Jesus Christ is alive and well and growing. We can show that God’s Word [has been] made flesh only if and when His Grace is so alive in our hearts that we cannot help but share Him with all others. The Babe of Bethlehem longs to be born in us tonight. The Word of God longs to be made flesh in us so that we go tell it on the Mountain that Jesus Christ is born, so that we not only go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Chrsit is born, but that He is alive and well and working to bring us and our neighbors to salvation! Will we let Jesus Christ so run His course in our lives that His birth is the beginning of our reconciliation with God our Heavenly Father?
Let us sing out tonight, Come into my heart and soul Lord Jesus! He has come so that we might be enlarged and defined solely by His indwelling Spirit. He is God’s Word and can be made flesh only if our hearts and souls are enlarged to receive Him. Will our hearts be enlarged while time remains? Let us ask with the poet,
Aren’t we enlarged
by the scale of what we’re able
to desire? Everything,
the choir insists,
inside these wrappings
burns another, brighter life,
by song: hear how
it cascades, in overlapping,
lapidary waves of praise? Still time.
Still time to change.
Still time to change, still time to be born again, born from above, dying to live by the Saviour’s love, dying to speak with the truth from above, still dying to die so that we might live, still dying to live so that we might give, still dying to give for one more day, still dying to give our Lord Jesus away.
St. Michael and All Angels Sermons