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The Eve of the Nativity of our Lord

D. G. Phillips

Holy Communion

Crousetown, LaHave and Broad Cove - December 24, 2007

Hebrews 1:1-12      John 1:1-14

 

"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us

full of grace and truth."

 

The night has finally arrived.  It is the beginning of the new day – the Nativity of our Lord. 

 

So we have put aside all business.  We are simply resting in this moment.  For this hour is set apart for the worshipping of God.  So let’s try to enter tonight into God’s rest, for this is why He has come to us in the flesh.

 

God’s rest is a deep peace.  But it is not a falling asleep - though this may be difficult if we've just come from a great feast!  It is not the annihilation of ourselves so that there is nothing.  Rather, it is a state of being that is full of hope and expectation of glory.  It is the peace that comes with being fully alert, fully alive, fully reconciled and in love with God and our neighbour.  And this rest, this state of peace is to be entered into if we would worship God.

The dayspring from on high hath visited us, to bring light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

 

Somehow this peace comes about by God taking flesh and dwelling among us.  This is what we celebrate at Christmas.

 

It is a strange religion that we hold to – that God should come to dwell among us in the flesh.  For His followers, Jesus brings about profound transformation, filling every stage of our lives with a holy significance.

 

You here tonight who are mothers, you know something of the love of Mary for Jesus. Did your mind ever turn to thoughts of Mary and the baby Jesus as you held and nurtured your child in your arms?  Does it return there tonight?  Fathers, you know something of Joseph’s frantic love to provide shelter and protection for this frail Mother and Child – feeling, of necessity, one step removed, and yet wanting to do something to help?  God turns upside down in a moment, by His Incarnation, notions of what is most important in this world – not the building of earthly kingdoms – but the tender moments of new life, because He took flesh of the Virgin Mary and was made man.

 

You here today who are in your teens, remember when Jesus was a teen?

He went to the Temple and sat among the teachers, and they were astonished at His answers.  But who else can tell us on earth of the deep things of God except He who came down from heaven?  This scene in the Temple of the teenager Jesus – does it not come to mind to parents and teachers, when a teen rebukes the imperfection of our lives.  Are we not listening to all ages a little more closely, because the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us?

 

As each one of us here follows Jesus, in the life of virtue, the Word takes flesh among us.  And Jesus says we can expect to discover in giving drink to those are thirsty, food to those who are hungry, when visiting the sick, and those in prison, we can expect to encounter Jesus Himself.  These simple encounters – not great political intrigues, or the building of personal empires – our kind attentions to one another, we are told, are known forever in heaven.  But our knowing this and our doing it become possible because the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us

 

As we stumble in our lives trying to follow Jesus, we know more and more the need for a Saviour.  We have come to trust in the offering of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of our sins.  But it’s only because we believe that Jesus is God made flesh that His suffering and death upon the Cross, we are sure, is the sacrifice sufficient for the sins of the whole world.  There could be no greater offering and He has done it for us, in the flesh.  Getting the smallest things right in our souls, between God and man, are important to us because the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us – (Jesus shows us these are matters of eternal significance.)

 

As we age, all of us suffer in the flesh.  Our bodies will be broken in time.  Which one of us, as believers in the Incarnate Word, have not received relief and renewal of hope, as we think upon Jesus who (says the writer of Hebrews) was perfected through His suffering in the flesh?  Which one of us, feeling forsaken, has not remembered the words of our Lord on the Cross and found strength once again to commend our souls to our heavenly Father.  We know that our God knows us in our sufferings and loves us.  He bears the imprints of love in His hands and feet and in His side.  Our sufferings can be redemptive because the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

 

Do you see how God’s coming in the flesh makes significant all our earthly circumstances – our birth, our childhood, our adult years, our sufferings, even our dying?  He renews our love for one another and our love for God.

 

Yet, He has come into the world to show us much more than this.

 

God appeared to us in this passing world, in the flesh, so that we might fix our earthly eyes on Him – and so to be led, by steps, to know first His perfect humanity.  And then, as St. Paul says, to no longer think of him in the flesh only but of him where he is seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high.  We come to know Jesus as God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God. 

 

God’s coming to earth brings about the enfleshment of the Word in us, through following the example of his perfect earthly life.  But He also leads us to know the Word that was in the beginning with God, the Word that is God.  And that Word can be known inwardly, in our hearts.  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.  And it is in knowing this Light and nothing less, upon hearing this Word spoken inwardly in our hearts, that we enter into God’s rest, and truly come to know peace.

 

Almighty God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure Virgin: Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, ever one God, world without end.  Amen.

 

 

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