Reflections for Christmas Morning, 2016
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The Gospel: John 1:1-14
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life,[a] and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.[b]
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own,[c] and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,[d] full of grace and truth.
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The Prologue to John’s Gospel expresses the profound heart of our faith in God become human in the language of poetry and hymn. To reflect with you on the mystery of the Word made flesh, I would like to offer the words of three other writers from other times who also offer poetic words to express the paradox that John proclaims. The first two pieces are by 20th century poets, both English women. The final is by an Anglican preacher from the mid-1600s.
20th C British-American poet
On the Mystery of the Incarnation
It’s when we face for a moment
the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know
the taint in our own selves, that awe
cracks the mind’s shell and enters the heart:
not to a flower, not to a dolphin,
to no innocent form
but to this creature vainly sure
it and no other is god-like, God
(out of compassion for our ugly
failure to evolve) entrusts,
as guest, as brother,
from The Collected Poems of Denise Levertov Paul A. Lacey and Anne Dewey (editors)
20th C English poet
The Wicked Fairy at the Manger
My gift for the child:
No wife, kids, home;
No money sense. Unemployable.
Friends, yes. But the wrong sort –
The work-shy, women, wogs,
Petty infringers of the law, persons
With notifiable diseases,
Poll tax collectors, tarts;
The bottom rung.
I think we’ll make it
Public, prolonged, painful.
Right, said the baby. That was roughly
What we had in mind.
Source: Christmas Poems by U.A. Fanthorpe http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/3813257/Christmas-Poems-by-UA-Fanthorpe.html
The Rev. Dr. Mark Frank
Anglican Priest in England preaching in 1630s and ‘40s
Second Sermon on Christmas Day
Text: Luke 2:7
And she brought forth her First-born Son, and wrapped him in Swaddling-clothes, and laid him in a Manger; because there was no room for them in the Inn.
She the gate of heaven: he the King of Glory that came forth. She the mother of the everlasting God: he God without a mother; God blessed for evermore. Great persons as ever met upon a day. …. Eternity a child, the rays of glory wrapped in rags, heaven crowded into the corner of a stable, and he that is everywhere in want of a room. I am determined today to know nothing but Jesus Christ in rags, but Jesus Christ in a manger.
This is our firstborn, which we are this day to bring forth, for it is a day of bringing forth; this we are to wrap up in our memories, this to lay up in our hearts; this the blessed mother, this the blessed babe; this the condition and place and time we find them in, the taxing time, the beast’s manger, the swaddling clothes-all this day preach to us. What though there be no room in the inn, though the world will not entertain him? The devout soul will find a place to lay him in, though it have nothing of its own but rags, a poor ragged righteousness, yet the best it has it will lay him in, and though it have nothing but a manger, a poor straight narrow soul, not the cleanest either to lodge him in; yet such as it is, he shall command it, his lying there will cleanse it, and his righteousness piece together our rags.
What though there be no room for him in the inn? I hope there is room in our houses for him. It is Christmas time, and let us keep open house for him; let his rags be our raiment, his manger our Christmas cheer, his manger our Christmas great chamber, hall, dining room. We must dress with him and feed with him and lodge with him at this feast. He is now ready by and by to give himself to eat; you may see him wrapped in the swaddling clothes of his blessed sacrament; you may behold him laid upon the altar as in his manger.
Do but make room for him and we shall bring him forth, and you shall look upon him and handle him and feed upon him; if we bring only the rags of a rent and torn and broken and contrite heart, the white linen clothes of good intentions and honest affections to swathe him in, wrap him up fast, and lay him close to our souls and bosoms. It is a day of mysteries; it is the way he comes to us today. Let us ourselves wrap him and lay him up in the best place we can find for him, though the best we have will be little better than a manger.
Frank, Mark, 1613-1664. “Second Sermon on Christmas Day St. LUKE ii. 7.
“And she brought forth her First-born Son, and wrapped him in Swad∣ling-clothes, and laid him in a Manger; because there was no room for them in the Inn,” in LI sermons preached by the Reverend Dr. Mark Frank … being a course of sermons, beginning at Advent, and so continued through the festivals : to which is added a sermon preached at St. Pauls Cross, in the year forty-one, and then commanded to be printed by King Charles the First.
Anthologized in: Christopher L. Webber. Love Came Down: Anglican Readings for Advent and Christmas (Kindle Locations 775-776). Kindle Edition.