O Come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, O come ye, O come ye to Bethelehem; Come and adore him, born the King of angels.
For weeks we have repeated the Bible’s final prayer: “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” We have sung “O come, O come Emmanuel,” and many other prophetic names of Christ. And now at last, he has come. The anniversary of his birth has arrived, and he has been born in our hearts anew. Upon his birth, the Christ Child was the King of a purely invisible Kingdom; his subjects were angels. But immediately he had the devotion and worship of his parents, and then some shepherds, and later of some wise men or some kings from the East. The King of Angels was becoming the King of Man.
After weeks of calling upon Jesus to come, the Church turns the tables on us and invites us to come and adore Him. Though there are pictures and models and re-creations of Bethlehem for us to feast our eyes upon today, we no longer go there to adore Him. Rather, we turn to other Bethlehems of another sort. We turn to the Bethlehem of the Church, where Christ continually dwells through his Spirit. We turn to the Bethlehem of the Bible, where the Word of Christ can be heard. We turn to the Bethlehem of the Sacraments, where Christ’s grace can be received.
God of God, Light of Light, Lo! he abhors not the Virgin’s womb: very God, begotten, not created.
This child is not just the son of Mary, he’s also the Son of God. Since the writing of the scriptures, the Church has always taught that God did not just became a man or the word became a flesh, but that God became man, the Word became flesh. God the Son descended not to inhabit the body of one man, but to indwell the lives of every man, woman, and child. He abhors not the virgin’s womb, and he abhors not the sinner’s penitent heart.
Thus we see in the incarnation the beginning of the great heavenly wedding. The marriage between Christ and his Church begins here in the uniting of the divine nature with the human nature. The Word of God takes on not just a human body, but encompasses all of humanity. The great and bitter divide between the untainted world of heaven and the sin-stained world of earth finds its union begun in the incarnation, and as the Body of Christ grows beyond the confines of the person of Jesus to include his Blessed Mother, John the Baptist, the Apostles, and every Christian thereafter, the marriage-like union of heaven and earth expands ever more and more.
Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation, sing all ye citizens of heaven above; ‘Glory to God in the highest.’
The perfect and unending worship of God in heaven has overflowed. With the Word-made-flesh born in Bethlehem, and the union of heaven and earth begun, the blessed words of heaven resound on earth. The angels shared their hymn with simple shepherds that first Christmas night, and God’s people have been singing it ever since. When we sing or say the Gloria in excelsis Deo, we are not repeating the mere favorite hymn of some long-dead liturgist, we are joining with the Angels and all the citizens of heaven in their perfect liturgy of worship above. The union of heaven and earth is celebrated and strengthened as we pray and worship together. The same is true for that other angelic hymn we repeat every Communion, the Sanctus: holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts; heaven and earth are full of thy glory!
See how the shepherds, summoned to the cradle, leaving their flocks, draw nigh to gaze; we too will thither bend our joyful footsteps.
Some argue that Christmas could not have been around December 25th because the shepherds would not have been pasturing the sheep at that time of year. But that is not quite true; although many sheep would indeed be kept in their folds during that season, there were some out in the fields: the lambs being raised for the Passover just a few months away. These shepherds may have been poor and unimportant, but the job they had was important on account of the sacred purpose for which their sheep were being raised. But the angels’ Gospel called them to something greater, and they left the sheep to come and adore the true Lamb of God who would grow up to be the most perfect Sacrifice of all.
We, too, are bidden by the same Gospel to lay aside anything and everything for the cause of Christ. Most of the first Apostles left behind their livelihoods to travel with Jesus for three years. The ordained ministers of Christ, to this day, take vows to set aside all things that will hinder us from advancement in the study and knowledge of Christ and his doctrine. All Christians, upon Baptism and Confirmation in the Church, renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil before embracing Christ, his Church, and his Gospel. We must remember and celebrate that some gave up all to follow Christ, and we must remember and celebrate that we all give up some to follow Christ.
Child, for us sinners poor and in the manger, we would embrace thee, with love and awe; who would not love thee, loving us so dearly?
In the words of St. Paul, “you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). In the words of St. John, “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). In the incarnation, just as at the Cross, we see the prevenient grace of God – the great love He has for us before we ever ask or deserve. Jesus met the poverty of our sinfulness with the poverty of the manger. Jesus would go on to expiate, or take away, the wrath of God by means of his perfect sacrifice on the Cross. In both cases his unmatched love is shown. How could we not respond in kind?
Yeah, Lord, we greet thee, born that happy morning; Jesus to thee be glory given; Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.
In the wee hours of that morning, Jesus passed from his invisible life in the womb of Mary to his visible life on earth. On the cosmic scale, the Word of God went from an invisible power, known only by Prophets of old and their sacred writings, to a visible person. The Word became flesh. No longer was knowledge of God and his Word to be mediated through imperfect representatives; God was present in the flesh for any to behold. O happy morning indeed! And though he now lives in heaven, ever making intercession for us, he may still be met in Scripture and Sacrament, which are not like the imperfect representatives of old, but are infallible in their communication of Him, if we just hear and receive them with faith, lest the Word fall on deaf hears and hardened hearts. Let us give glory to him, glory to Jesus.
O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.