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 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. The Word of God made flesh has no words; he is as speechless as every newborn babe. The Word of the Eternal Father, His only and everlastingly begotten Son, is made man for us and for our salvation. From conception in the Virgin’s womb, and now in His birth, he is intent upon redeeming man, all men, you, and me. Conception has been redeemed in the womb and now birth is redeemed. 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 infant’s voice must be heard. But first, it is not to be understood. God never forces His Word and Will upon anyone. The gift of God in Jesus Christ must make its way into the unruly, antagonistic, unfriendly, and hostile world of good and evil. The gift of God’s redemption for us that will be found in this child will not be received truly and sincerely until it is heard by the ears of the human heart. What we must hear first are the cries of an infant babe.
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)
Some two thousand and twenty-three years ago, Truth or the Word of the Father looked down from Heaven to Earth. Eternal Truth, the Everlasting Thinking and Speech of the Father will come alive in birth from an earthly mother. Truth and the Word that hold the world in place, gives it meaning, desires its perfection will be held in the hands of a woman. Truth and the Word that inform, define, and nourish the life of the sempiternal angels, will begin to live in the Babe of Bethlehem, nourishing the same Babe on mother’s milk. God has become Man. The Word has been made flesh. The Truth and Word that the heavens cannot contain, limit, constrain, and constrict now comes alive in the Babe lying in a manger, poor, hungry, constricted by the earthly elements and yet destined to live, breath, think, know, understand, and reveal the will of God the Father in human flesh. The Truth and Word shall be discovered and revealed in the Second Adam, Jesus Christ. 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 with a blast of paranormal, miraculous otherworldliness. He is God. He needs nothing. He is alive in His Word made flesh, needing only a mother’s milk, care, and love. The eternally begotten Word made flesh is Truth. He needs only the simplest of things to begin His journey. We should cherish and treasure the gift of the Word made flesh in an Infant Babe. God wants to share His own great goodness from conception into birth. Silently and quietly, we must go to the Manger. With all humility and meekness, we must contemplate the way 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 stirs us up to God’s awakening of the world in those infant eyes that look out on the cosmos that He has made now with awesome wonder. Be still and see that the Word though whom all things were made and without Him was not anything made that was made. (John i. 3) now sees it all for the very first time as a baby. All the potential for new human life is taken on by the Infant Babe of Bethlehem. Jesus Christ enters human life to recapitulate and reconstitute human nature from the very beginning, first in the womb and not as a newborn infant. We must hear 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)
The world and all of us have lived in sin and its reward — death. For man to be saved and for our human nature to be redeemed, God must get under our skin and come into our condition. He would later remind us that Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John iii. 3) We cannot be born again unless the Spirit of God revivifies the flesh of man in Jesus Christ. And he was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary. Heaven has come down to earth. God has come down to man. The Divine has become human. Not only does He submit to our conception and birth. He submits to our death. He is conceived as one of us, He is born as one of us, He lives, learns, grows, as one of us. And He dies as one of us. Had he not come, we would die a death that never ends.
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 this Word be made flesh for us and in us tonight? Or are we people of the Law of Sin and Death? Will the Word of God be conceived in us as He was by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary long ago? Will the timeless One, the Word of God enter the brief span of our day and be born in us as He was in Bethlehem? If He is to be born in us, He must be born in silence, in quiet, in awesome wonder at the creation He had made, depending only the simplest of things, as on a lowly mother, thankful for nothing but the milk of Mary’s kindness. You and I must become infant babes of Bethlehem.
Many Christians will depart this life having never revealed to the world that Christ was born in Bethlehem. But we must remember 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)
This memory must become the reality of our lives. Christ’s new birth which we celebrate this night is Truth sprung out of the earth, truth born of a virgin, and longing to be born in you and me. This is Heaven’s truth which will be born in us by Grace, by God, by the Gift of Christ. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (James i. 17) The Babe of Bethlehem longs to be born in ustonight so that we go tell it on the Mountain that Jesus Christ is born and bringing us to salvation! Tonight, Heaven and Earth meet in the heart of Jesus Christ, the Babe of Bethlehem as one life, one energy, one wisdom, and one love.
The author of the Hebrews reminds us:
God…hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the Word of His Power, when he had purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent glory than they. (Hebrews, 1-4)
The Eternal Son of God became a baby. So too must we. Babies have all the potential to become more excellent than angels. Angels are pure spirits. But we can become spirits in bodies, the Word made flesh, a culmination of all creation. Humility and faith must be our virtues. The wisdom of the poet exhorts us to the Imitation of Christ.
WITH a measure of light and a measure of shade,
The world of old by the Word was made;
By the shade and light was the Word conceal’d,
And the Word in flesh to the world reveal’d
Is by outward sense and its forms obscured;
The spirit within is the long lost Word,
Besought by the world of the soul in pain
Through a world of words which are void and vain.
O never while shadow and light are blended
Shall the world’s Word-Quest or its woe be ended,
And never the world of its wounds made whole
Till the Word made flesh be the Word made soul! (Arthur Edward Waite)
St. Michael and All Angels Sermons: