Friday, December 24, 2010

Vigil of the Nativity of Our Lord

Romans 1:1-6 / Matthew 1:18-21

It is easy to feel dwarfed by the celebration of Christmas. Certainly, for those of us who live where the Christian faith it (or at least was) the faith of the majority and made the culture what it has come to be, Christmas as a public celebration has been largely unavoidable over the past few weeks, if not more. Our own best private attempts to observe Advent as we thought best have been challenged again and again, not merely by commercial interests, but by our friends, our relatives, our colleagues, all of whom have been busily calling upon us to observe Christmas early and often. The odds that we have had the Advent we might like to have had are, outside of strict cloister, slim to none.

Of course, we might think that, even apart from the commercial and social observance of Christmas, the truth of the holiday probably ought to make us feel small. After all, we are readying ourselves to celebrate the merciful appearing in the flesh of the Lord and Savior of all, the Word and Son of God. It is an event which not merely suggests, it demands that we set aside even our own relatively righteous schemes — as Joseph, being a just man, nonetheless was impelled to change his plans about Mary, being minded to put her away privately, in light of the revelation of the Angel of the Lord. In the light of the work of the Holy Spirit, our own righteousness must necessarily give way to the Sun of Righteousness, who was predestined Son of God in power according to the spirit of sanctification.

And yet, the mystery of our redemption in the Word made flesh is not now, nor was it ever, even before the dawn of time in the mind of God, meant to diminish us at his expense. That same good pleasure of the Father by which the Son was incarnate for our sake by the power of the Holy Spirit is also the good pleasure by which God has called us to share in bearing witness to so great a mystery. This is what Paul reminded the Romans, that his own call by God as apostle separated, set apart unto the Gospel of God, was no less in the heart of the Father than the foretelling of that same Gospel by the prophets or the lineage from David to Joseph and Mary. We may be called, predestined to glory in light of God's predestination of the Son to glory, but we are no less called out of darkness into light, no less called to share in the unending joyous brilliance that is eternal life with God.

This is why we pause this day to recall not just what occurred in global sense for the world through the Nativity of the Lord, but also, lest we forget in the splendor of the day to come, God's own desire for each of his elect that they, too, might share in that fulness of Triune life which is his unto the ages of ages.

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