Sermon for Christmas Morn

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour,
who is Christ the Lord”

We meet in the contemplative wonder of Christmas morn after all the excitement of Christmas Eve. “And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first-born son”. He is “the only-begotten of the Father full of grace and truth” as we heard last night from the heights of heaven, as it were. We come to Bethlehem. Why? What does it signify?

We contemplate the great wonder of the unity of God and Man and the whole of the created order. There are the three great masses of Christmas: first, the proclamation and celebration of the eternal Sonship of the child Christ which we heard last night; second, the story of his actual birth made known in the songs of the Angels in the gospel this morning; and, then, later, the Christmas of the Shepherds to whom this angelic news from heavenly heights is proclaimed and made known. The three masses of Christmas present to us something of the fullness of this wonder and delight. Bethlehem is paradise restored, to be sure, but Bethlehem is something more. It inaugurates a new vision and a new life, the new vision and the new life of what has been made known to us, God with us and God for us. “Unto you”, the Angels say to the Shepherds and to us, “unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord”.

We are in the company of the Shepherds, it seems; only so, it seems, can we be in the company of the Angels; and even more, unless we are in the company of Angels and Shepherds, we shall not be with the holy Child who comes to us. The Angels proclaim something great and wondrous for us. Their words are strong words of proclamation that point to a wonder and mystery. They say it is for us. And for them? Only through us it seems, for in what they proclaim and make known we see the unity of the whole of creation with its Creator. The Angels, too, are part of that order. They do simply what belongs to their office and being, to their ministry, as it were. They are the messengers, the audible and visible thoughts of God made known to us.

“Fear not”, the Angel says, “for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy”. It is the office of Angels to bring the word, the Word of God to us. Here is the greater wonder, the wonder of that Word being with us in the intimacy of the birth of Christ, the intimacy and wonder of the Word made flesh. That community between God and Man signaled in the uniqueness of Christ reveals a wider community, the community of the whole created order at one with God, the Creator. An Angel brings good tidings of great joy to the Shepherds and so to us, but then, “suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host”, a host of Angels and the company of redeemed humanity.

Heaven and earth are suddenly one, joined in the simplicity and the lowliness of Bethlehem, “though thou art least among the tribes of Judah”, as Micah the prophet says; “though thou art not the least among the princes of Judah”, as Matthew the evangelist says; at once the least and the greatest of cities and places. See, there is even a union of opposites, a resolution of the apparent contradictions between prophet and evangelist in the mystery of Bethlehem!

There is, perhaps, no greater and more symbolic representation of the yearnings of human hearts, “the desire of the nations”, as it were, than what Bethlehem reveals. Here is the truth of every environmental concern, the unity of man with the order of nature, at one with beast and animal. Here is the vision of every social and political concern, the unity of man with man, of man and woman, of adult and child, of rich and poor, of shepherds and kings. Here “the hopes and fears of all the years” are made visible in the simple scene of Bethlehem. The “things into which Angels have longed to look” are made known to us, the very heights of heaven for philosopher and peasant alike to think and sing.

To sing. What we have been given to see on the strength of Angel’s news we are given to sing with Angels’ words. This “heavenly host”, this vision of our humanity redeemed and sanctified, at one with God and his Angels, teach the Shepherds to sing. The Shepherds are the choir of the earth singing the songs of heaven. The unity of Bethlehem issues forth in chorus and music, in hymn and song. It becomes the great song of the liturgy, the Gloria Dei. It is the song which the Angels teach the Shepherds and they, in turn, teach us to sing.

“Good tidings of great joy” have been conveyed to us and what can we do but sing with the Shepherds and the Angels? And what we sing is more than mere words. They are words which must become our lives, our living what we sing, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will towards men”.

In the quiet wonder of Christmas morn we come like the Shepherds at an Angel’s bidding to worship and adore. What we have been given to see, we are bidden to sing. Our worship is our life. For what we sing that we must also be, the Word made flesh taking flesh in us by the tenor of our lives. And all because of what we have seen and heard, all because of the Angel’s word and message.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour,
who is Christ the Lord”

Fr. David Curry
Christmas Morn, 2016 (re’05)

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