Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from the Savior incarnate and born for us, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Christ is born, and the angels sing. They blend their voices in heavenly harmony, resounding in joyful praise and exalting His glory. All creation wonders at such mercy. God is born of a woman for the sake of hateful and ungrateful men. Heaven praises God for this unfathomable love, beholding a mystery of the divine in the Flesh. Heaven rejoices, because heaven knows that God’s will is always good. As has been long foretold but frequently forgotten, it is God’s will to redeem His human creatures. For our salvation, God deems to dwell here below.
For you, He intends to endure terrible sufferings, pain, and death. He does this so that we, who were lowly—who deserve nothing at all—are exalted. By Divine mercy, we who rebel regularly and sin constantly are now made higher than those angels who never rebelled or sinned. And in spite of this—no, because of this; because of the exalted status given to us in God’s mercy, the angels sing “Gloria in excelsis Deo!”
This mystery is beyond all of creation’s understanding. Even the angels cannot fathom it. They, like us, wonder at its joy. Shepherds quake and Mary ponders. And we poor sinners eat the Body and drink the Blood of God who took on Flesh. We who are addicted to rejecting His guiding hand and ought to fear being crushed by His mighty arm are made bold to call the Father of Our Lord and Savior Our Father, too.
Do not ask how this can be. Where God wills it, the order of nature is turned on its ear. He who parts the Red Sea, He who multiplies the loaves, He who sees Nathanael under the fig tree—He has willed to become Man. He willed. He spoke. He saved. All things move in obedience to Him-Who-Is-the-Great-I-Am. And thus, defying our logic and our understanding of “how things are,” He-Who-Is becomes conceived of the Spirit and born of a Virgin. “I AM” becomes a Man. He-Who-Is becomes what He was not before. For though He was still fully God, He became man, yet without relinquishing the Godhead that is His. And now He who became Immanuel, God with us, is—and forever will be—Man for us. He is still a Man, the Man who was crucified and died, the Man who rose and ascended, the One who sits at His Father’s right hand, as God and as Man, on our behalf. This is our exaltation; this is our hope.
His Incarnation did not cause Him to forsake the holy angels. He has not left them or deprived them of His care. Though He is a Man, He has not ceased to be God. He still loves all that He has created. He never stops sustaining and caring for all of it. Even while on the cross, He loved and sustained His creation. He is God and He is Man, One Christ, Our Lord, perfectly united in will and desire, perfectly One with His Father and the Spirit.
Let us follow the lead of the holy angels, then, and bow to the mystery of this Love. He has interceded on our behalf and given Himself as a Sacrifice for our salvation. He opens heaven to lowly human sinners who had no right to ask. Come, say the angels, let us adore Him. Come, say the shepherds, and see this thing that God has revealed to us. Come, say the Wise Men, and worship the newborn King of Israel and all creation.
So, come, you infants, you babes in your mothers’ arms; adore Him who became a little child. Out of the mouths of infants He perfects praise. We are glad you are here. And if you cry and squawk and fuss from time to time, we really do not mind. You are the model of our faith. You teach us how to trust while helpless and unworthy.
And come, you children. Come to the Child who raised up young martyrs in the vicinity of Bethlehem through the rage of Herod; come and adore the Christ, your Lord. We will not hinder you. But we will strive to teach you to confess Christ rightly, to discern the Body and Blood of Christ, to trust His Word, knowing all the while that it is His Spirit alone that truly teaches us all.
Come, you men. Come to Him who became a man that He might heal the miseries of those raised up from the soil of the earth. You who are to guide and keep and protect your families as a shepherd does his flock, come to the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep. You Ministers of His Word, come to Him who has become our Great High Priest in the order of Melchizedek. You who work under the direction and leadership of others, come to Him who took upon Himself the form of a servant. You who strive and worry about keeping all those treasures He has given you, come to Him who had no place to lay His head, that He might bless our stewardship and give us joy in our work. You who live by the strength of your back or the sharpness your skills, come to the Fisher of humanity. And even you publicans, you who work for money, who track its quantity and seek to become rich, come to Him who from among you chose Matthew to be an evangelist, who changes hearts, and gives us treasures far beyond our math.
Come, you women. Do not stay back. Do not lose yourself in your work and your families and your fears. Come to Him who exposed His feet to the tears of the repentant woman, who prayed for the women of Jerusalem, who first announced and revealed His Resurrection to women. Come to Him who was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the essence of female virtue and the absolute paragon of our Faith.
Come and adore Him, for He is Christ the Lord, the Savior. He saves us from our sins. He delivers us from death. He is our God, and He is our Brother. He makes us free and lifts fallen humanity. Come all sinners, that He may embrace us all together. Come that we may look upon the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and be joined in His Holy Body, the Church. Come and adore Him.
God has become a Man! For you, He has picked up His Cross. For you, He has taken the bitter Cup of Wrath. For you, He has endured the worst that Hell could do and still quenched all its hatred and God’s wrath against sin with His Holy Blood. All for you. Rejoice, O Christian! Rejoice.
But is that the strongest word we have? Rejoice? It seems too small, too shallow, too fleeting a term to encompass and express the praise that should come bursting out of us whose consciences have been cleansed, who are purged by His Word, whose guilt and shame is gone, and who are given, yet again, a fresh start. We are forgiven. We are spared. The Light has shined in our darkness. He has rescued us from eternal torture for the sake of His grace. What words, even what music can adequately contain and convey our joy? Rejoice! Celebrate! Be Glad! Adore!
Even you who mourn, come and adore. Do not be afraid. Do not feel guilty or ashamed. Leave behind your regrets and recriminations. The joy of Christ, the joy of forgiveness, is undeserved by all. Whatever you have endured, His joy does not defile the memory. You are not less sad than you should be if your heart is warmed by the love of God. There is no guilt in accepting His joy and soothing the pain. The joy of Christ is meant to give you comfort and relief. We have Christ, Our Lord and do not mourn as the world mourns. We have hope.
Therefore, we are not sad for our departed brothers and sisters. We are sad for ourselves. They are at peace in the Church Triumphant, while we still suffer in this world’s strife. We await the time when we will see them again. We will see them again because Jesus Christ became a Man, suffering like us and infinitely more, died, and rose from the dead. You who mourn, come, let us mourn with you; Christians should not mourn alone.
We all feel a degree of sorrow for being without loved ones today—for being apart from those who have preceded us and fallen asleep in Jesus, or apart due to distance, circumstances, violence, and sin. Our war has not ended, even though the victory is already won for us.
Our tables of the Christmas feast will not be the same this year as they were last year. They’ve been attacked—attacked by death and divorce, assaulted by arguments and cancer, broken promises and betrayal. And they will not be the same next year as they are this year, either, because there is no constant but God and His grace. But we still rejoice and adore. For God is Man and God is good. His mercy endures forever. Jesus lives. Our dead are not dead. Jesus lives, so they live. Jesus was born and Jesus is a Man, one of us. Jesus has ascended into heaven, and therefore we have hope.
Therefore, we can both mourn and adore; we can be glad and sad at the same time; we can wait for the will of the Lord to be revealed in the goodness in which we trust even now, as we enjoy the peace that passes all understanding.
Your pain will not endure. Heaven and earth pass away. Your loneliness and sorrow will pass away as surely as your regrets and guilt. Nothing lasts forever except for this: The mercy of our God in Christ. The trumpet will sound. We will be changed. We will be as we were meant to be, and all sadness will end. All because our God is a Man! We have a Mediator, an Advocate, a Lover of both our bodies and souls. We cannot die, nor lose loved ones to death forever, for Jesus lives. And so will we, and so do all those who confess His Name. Christ was born for this; born in Bethlehem, for this.
What joy is ours in Him! It is that joy that has brought us here to sing with angels today. Here we are, with sword-pierced souls, with eager expectation, with complicated lives and painful pasts, yet with joy that can only come from being loved and forgiven by God Himself. Here we are with our doubts and our faith, to celebrate His Birth, to keep the Ancient Feast.
And so we take our part. Not by plucking harps in heaven, not in performing miracles, but holding in our arms the cradle of Christ. For Christ is cradled even now, not in a feed trough in royal David’s city, but in the Holy Scriptures which we hear. He is cradled in the bread and the wine by which He gives us His Body and His Blood. When we say our prayers, when we receive the Absolution, when we add our “Amen” to the Church’s worship, we are cradling Christ in ourselves. And in that, we who are flesh are joined to Him who is the Word made flesh, by grace, through faith, forever.
Rejoice, then, O Christian! Sing with the angels; wonder with the shepherd; worship with the Wise Men. Whatever burdens might be yours, rejoice that Christ is born. Your struggles are not unknown by your Father in heaven or to His holy angels. They are certainly understood by the Son who became Man. He has provided your rescue. Your day will come. In the meantime, rejoice, adore. Your sins are forgiven. Christ is born. Jesus lives. And so do you. In His (+) holy name, Amen.