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excerpts from
COMMON PRAYER: A Commentary on the Prayer Book Lectionary
Volume 1: Sunday Next Before Advent to Epiphany VI 
St. Peter Publications Inc. Charlottetown, PEI, Canada
Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

On this most holy night, we wait with joyous expectation for our Lord’s coming into our midst. This night witnesses his wondrous birth in the lowly stable. He comes as the Babe of Bethlehem. “Out of the mouths of very babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength.” Emmanuel, God with us, is the miracle of Christmas. “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion; for lo, I come and I will dwell in the midst of you,” proclaims our God through his prophet Zechariah.

His coming in humility declares the wonderful love of God towards us.  “The heavens declare the glory of God,” sings the Psalmist.  Tonight the whole earth joins in concert with the heavenly host. Tonight the glory of God appears in the very flesh of our humanity, “for he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.”  The humble of heart see the glory of God in their midst. His will is their peace.  “Be it unto me according to thy word,” sings the virgin mother of our Lord, the perfect vessel of our Lord’s humanity.  Tonight that Word comes to birth as “the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”  That babe is the eternal Word of God, our Saviour, Christ the Lord.  “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”  And so angels sing with shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.”

Our Advent preparations become our Christmas celebrations.  But first, we begin in the silence of expectancy.  We await his coming with bated breath, as it were, heeding Zechariah’s words of eager anticipation: “Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord; for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.” We await the birth of our Lord, who comes that he may dwell in our midst.


Christmas celebrates the Nativity of our Lord, the birth-day of Christ.  He is Emmanuel, God with us. All the readings abound with a sense of holy awe and wonder at this glorious manifestation of God’s love.  “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world that we might live through him.”  We rejoice in the love of God through the love of God.

The Epistle to the Hebrews exults in the wonderful condescension of God in the sending of Christ, who is the fullness of God’s revelation to man.  God who has spoken to man through the prophets “hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.”  The epistle sings the glory of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God. He is the beginning and the end, “heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.”  Christ is God of God, light of light, very God of very God, “who being the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person” upholds “all things by the word of his power.”  From the eternal Son of God in Creation and in Providence, the epistle turns to Christ in Redemption. Christ is our Redeemer, who, “when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high.”  The epistle rejoices in the whole mission of Christ from his coming into the world, to his death, resurrection, and ascension.  All is to the glory of God, and the cause of our rejoicing.

The great Christmas gospel is John 1.1-14, which takes us from the eternity of God through Creation and Providence to Redemption and Sanctification.  Christ is the eternal Word of God, whose coming is the grace and truth of God toward us.  That Word was in the beginning “and was with God, and the Word was God.”  By him “all things were made.”  “In him was life, and the life was the light of men,” “the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”  That eternal Word of God “was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Without forsaking what he was, namely God, Christ became what he was not, namely man, in order that through him mankind might be joined to the life of God.  The Christmas collect recalls the condescension of God, whose only-begotten Son has taken our nature upon him, that through him we might have a new life, daily renewed by his Holy Spirit, and become by adoption and grace what he is by nature — sons of God through the Son of God. We pray this collect throughout the season of Christmas.