ON THE BIRTH OF CHRIST
Consider first, that the time being now come in which the Son of God was to be born into this world, in the silence of the night and in the obscurity of a stable, the eternal Word of God, by whom all things were made, issued out from his nine months’ close confinement in his mother’s womb, without any detriment of her virginal integrity: and so came to dwell amongst us. See, my soul, and contemplate with thy inward eyes this lovely babe – O how lovely indeed and loving to us! – already beginning to suffer for thee, and to weep bitterly for thy sins. See how this blessed mother takes him up from the ground shivering with cold; see with what profound reverence on the one hand, and with what ardent love and affection on the other, she embraces him, and carefully wraps him up in swaddling clothes, and lays him in the manger. But see also, in the midst of all this poverty and humility of this newborn king, all the heavenly choirs of angels and archangels, and al the cherubim and seraphim, descending from heaven to adore their Lord, and to sing their hymns of praise and glory to him, according to that of the apostle, Heb. i. 6, that when God brought his firstborn into the world he said: ‘Let all the angels of God adore him.’ Christians, let us join with all these heavenly spirits; let us join with the blessed virgin, the mother of God, in our homage and adoration, praise and thanksgiving, to the Son of God, born into this world to be our Emmanuel, (God with us,) and to save us: let us welcome him at his birth, and embrace him with all the affection of our souls.
Consider 2ndly, what we read, Luke ii., that at the time of the birth of our Lord, ‘There were in the same country shepherds watching and keeping the night watches over their flock. And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them, and they feared with a great fear. And the angel said to them, Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people; for this day is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign unto you: you shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God and saying, Glory be to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of goodwill!’ See, Christians, you study well the lessons designed for you in this whole passage. Behold, a heavenly messenger is here sent to carry the first news, the happy tidings of the birth of the Son of God – born into this world to be the Saviour of the world. But to whom do you think does God send this joyful message, this heavenly embassy? Not to any of the great ones of this world, not to any of the worldly wise, nor to the learned, nor to the rich, nor to any of them that lived at their ease and wallowed in sensual pleasures. No; their pride and self-conceit, their love of the world, and of the things of this world, their love of sensual and carnal pleasures, fastened them down to the earth and disqualified them for the visits of heaven. What manner of men, then, were they who were favoured with his glorious vision and this heavenly message, and in consequence of it were the first, after the blessed Virgin and St. Joseph, that had the happiness to see and to worship the Saviour of the world – to believe in him themselves, and to preach and publish his coming to their neighbours? O, they were poor, humble, harmless shepherds, keeping the night watches over their flocks, attentive to the business of their humble calling, and likely employing that silent time of the night in joining the praises of God and prayer with the care of their sheep. Now, such as these are commonly the favourites of the most high, who resists the proud and gives his grace to the humble.. See, my soul, these be also thy dispositions if thou wouldst be favoured by our Lord with his divine graces.
Consider 3rdly, the words of the angel to the shepherds: ‘I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people, for this day is born to you a Saviour.’ See, Christians, what ought to be the subject of your joy at this holy time. A Saviour is born this day to you, who comes to save his people from their sins; who comes to deliver you from the power and slavery of the devil, and from hell and damnation; and to bring to you mercy, grace, and salvation. O here is a just subject of true joy indeed! Not like the joys of worldlings, which are either vain and foolish, or base and filthy; but a joy in the Lord and in his goodness, which opens to us by this mystery the gate of joys that shall never end. O let us then join with all the heavenly choirs in the sacred hymn they sung on this occasion: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of goodwill!’ Let us ever glorify him who has wrought these wonders for us, and who has sent us, by the birth of his Son, justice and abundance of peace till the moon be taken away. O how lovely and desirable is this peace! But it is only bestowed on men of goodwill: ‘For there is no peace to the wicked, saith the Lord,’ Isaia xlvii. 22.
Conclude to imitate the shepherds, by going over with them in spirit to Bethlehem this night, and thee paying your homage, and making your offerings to your new-born king. The offering he calls for is that of your heart. O give it him without reserve! But let it be a loving heart, to answer that love which has brought him down from heaven to you: let it be a contrite and humble heart, in consideration of your ingratitude and manifold sins against him.