The Eve of the Nativity of our Lord
Psalm 2. Quare fremuerunt gentes?
WHY do the heathen so furiously rage together? * and why do the people imagine a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers take counsel together * against the Lord, and against his Anointed:
3 Let us break their bonds asunder, * and cast away their cords from us.
4 He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn: * the Lord shall have them in derision.
5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, * and vex them in his sore displeasure:
6 Yet have I set my King * upon my holy hill of Sion.
7 I will rehearse the decree; * the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.
8 Desire of me, and I shall give thee the nations for thine inheritance, * and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession.
9 Thou shalt bruise them with a rod of iron, * and break them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings; * be instructed, ye that are judges of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord in fear, * and rejoice unto him with reverence.
12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and so ye perish from the right way, if his wrath be kindled, yea but a little. * Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall
be : world without end. Amen.
GOD, who makest us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of thine only Son Jesus Christ; Grant that as we joyfully receive him for our Redeemer, so we may with sure confidence behold him when he shall come to be our Judge, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
Epistle Reading: Titus 2.11-15
Gospel Reading: Luke 2.1-14
The Nativity of our Lord, or the Birth-day of Christ, Commonly called Christmas-Day.
St. Luke I.
MY soul doth magnify the Lord : and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded : the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth : all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me : and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him : throughout all generations.
He hath showed strength with his arm : he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat : and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things : and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel : as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed, for ever.
Glory be to the Father, &c.
As it was in the beginning, &c.
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.
Epistle Reading: Hebrews 1.1-12
Gospel Reading: St. John 1.1-14
Here is the pastoral letter I sent to our congregation yesterday:
This last week I have been thinking over the Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (Trinity Hymnal 194: https://hymnary.org/hymn/TH1990/194). You might recall that I preached a whole Advent series on each of these verses three years ago, but they have returned to me and I simply want to give you some short thoughts. I will start with the 5th verse and work my way up through all five.
“O come, thou Key of David, come and open wide our heav'nly home; make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path to misery.”
When can you not pray this verse? Here, now, in the common afflictions of humankind, behind masks and quarantines, ailing and recovering, this verse brings us to lift our cries heavenward. In rattled marriages, busted finances, frustration and forlornness, “and close the path to misery.”
“O come, thou Dayspring from on high, and cheer us by thy drawing nigh; disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death's dark shadows put to flight.”
For some, this line is deeply poignant. Loved ones knocked flat, ailing, dying. And our hearts ache for God’s remedy; for his Son to come and disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows be put to flight! I have cried this week, voicing this verse often.
“O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free thine own from Satan's tyranny; from depths of hell thy people save, and give them vict'ry o'er the grave.”
Unable to ultimately cure our own demise, we acknowledge that the curse is far and wide. Which means that in the end all medical procedures and practices will fail and all methods to prolong life and health will cease being effective. And so, here lies “our only comfort in life and in death”!
“O come, O come, thou Lord of might, who to thy tribes, on Sinai's height, in ancient times didst give the law in cloud and majesty and awe.”
Further, we are not the center piece of this moment. I, personally, specifically, am not the be-all-to-end-all of God’s project. He is, and he alone. And yet, the high and exalted One dwells with the humble and contrite, and even includes us in his big plans.
“O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.”
Ah! Our heart’s desire! The longing and yearning for the only One who can come, gather us into his fold, call us his own, and call us each by name. Yes, we mourn here, now, in this exile, “until the Son of God appear.” But this pining is not in despair. He has come, he continues to be with us, and he will return to make all wrongs right.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”