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December 28, 2011

Rev. Paul J. Stephens


The Rev. Paul J. Stephens - Rector

“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” Hebrews 1:1-4.

These opening verses of Hebrews, which are proclaimed at Midnight Mass and included as one of the readings at Lessons and Carols on Christmas Day, help us see and understand that the birth of the Child is part of a larger, indeed cosmic, story: God’s Son took on our mortal flesh so that the temporal and the eternal might forever be linked. For us to proclaim that Christ is “the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being” is to declare that “flesh is God’s territory no less than spirit” (David J. Wood) and that all is God’s.

This incarnational theology is a centerpiece of Anglicanism. While eloquently expressed throughout the Book of Common Prayer (e.g., “Father, you loved the world so much that in the fullness of time you sent your only Son to be our Savior. Incarnated by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, he lived as one of us, yet without sin . . . .” Eucharistic Prayer D), it is emphasized and amplified during the season of Christmas in the beautiful Collects appointed for the season: “O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven . . . .” (Christmas Day II); “Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him . . . .” (Christmas Day III); “Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives . . . .” (First Sunday after Christmas Day); “Eternal Father, you gave to your incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to be the sign of our salvation . . . .” (The Holy Name); and “Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ . . . .” (Second Sunday after Christmas Day). These prayers reveal our yearning to know God’s grace and presence to our very core.

It is easy for our yearly remembrance of the birth of the Child to stir up nostalgic memories. But the birth of the Child is not simply an event of historical significance. The miracle and mystery of Christmas is to see and know God in the flesh, both our own and in the faces of “the poor, the sick, the hungry, the oppressed, and those in prison.” When the “Word made flesh” becomes a present reality for us we feel God’s loving embrace through and through and are filled with joy and peace. May this Christmas be a time in which you will discern and identify the “Word made flesh” in the acts and movements of your everyday life.
May God’s peace be with you.


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