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.
THE EPISTLE. Hebr. 1. 1
GOD, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 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 by himself purged our sins, sat down on 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 name than they. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? And again, when he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom: Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. And again he saith, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: they shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed; but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.
THE GOSPEL. S. John 1. 1
IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light. That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his Name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth.
Christmas Day is the day in which we recall the great gift that God sent to us when He sent us His only Begotten Son to sacrifice Himself for us for the redemption of our sins. Christmas has an octave in which this collect will be said each day, as well as a proper preface from the prayerbook. Both the epistle and the Gospel today speak about the Incarnation. I would like to discuss the epistle by first recounting a bit of church history.
During the early fourth century (300-400 AD), there was a priest who was convincing people that Jesus was a creature, not God. In other words, He could have been an angel but He was not God. This priest was named Arius. He was convincing many people of this, but there was a brave deacon who was willing to convince others that this was wrong. This deacon was St. Athanasius. He wrote a work known as “Against the Arians.” He uses many proof texts, one of which is our epistle today.
Our epistle today describes Incarnation Theology. The fact that in times past God had used prophets, but now we have the witness of Christ. He is the fulfillment of all those prophets. The epistle also shows us the duality of Christ. He was a man, but He was also God. He has been the sceptre and He has always been and always will be: Incarnation Theology. We see that Jesus is truly man and truly God. To paraphrase St. Gregory of Nazianzus, “He cannot save that which He has not assumed.” In order to pay our debt, Jesus had to become truly man but man alone could not do this. Man had constantly failed but this is why He was not only man but He was truly God and truly human. This is what we call the Hypostatic Union.
In the Gospel, today, we see a passage known as the Last Gospel. It is not the full Last Gospel as that is normally eighteen verses whereas today’s reading only shows the first fourteen verses. This is also known as the Preface of St. John or the Prologue of St. John. It serves as a sort of thesis statement for all of St. John as it summarizes all of what St. John will reveal in his gospel account. You will notice some key features of the text. The first is that it opens up very similar to Genesis 1. This is very purposeful as St. John is showing us that Jesus is Yahweh (Elohim or God). He uses some of the same imagery as Genesis such as light. In Genesis, we read of the separation of light and dark, and in John 1 there is a sense of separation but St. John says that the darkness will not comprehend it. The Light will shine in the midst of the darkness. Jesus is the Light of the World, this is a theme that will be played upon in the Gospel. This is in reference to a parallel Jewish holiday and that is Chanukah, the holiday that celebrates the oil in the lampstand that lasted eight nights. It was a miracle that at the time the Jewish people needed. In the celebration, there is a candle that stands above the rest. This is called the Shamesh, or servant candle. Jesus is saying He is this candle that gives light to all of the other candles. He is the light of the world. He is the oil that will sustain His people and produce the Light that will shine. We also see mention of St. John the Baptist, this is because St. John will be introduced right after the Prologue and St. John does not want you to think he is the messiah, but rather St. John the Baptist is preparing the Way for the true light. Then, it tells us that the messiah will not be accepted by all, even by his own flesh and blood but he to those who hear Him they will be called Sons of God. We see the idea of Effectual Calling played out in St. John’s Gospel. Jesus calls out to us and is calling us to Himself, the sheep will hear His voice. Then, we hear in verse 14 that He came to dwell and tabernacle, or pitch a tent, among us. He set up camp in our midst. This is a reference from The Torah (Pentateuch or first five books of Moses) where God set a tent in the camp and tabernacled among the people of Israel. In the same way, God tabernacles among us to show His glory, but this time He does not send Moses, but He sends Himself and all that see His glory shall be saved.
Merry Christmas to you all! I wish you a blessed first day of Christmas and may God bless you through the octave, the twelve days of Christmas and always!
Fr. Brandon Cribbs