December 25: The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ- Christmas Day

The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews is the vicar of St. Hilda St. Patrick. The sermon for December 25, 2023 was preached in response to John 1:1-14 based on the manuscript below.

St. John Chrysostom
preached this Christmas sermon
in 386.
It was preached at Antioch in Asia Minor–
during the first year of his public ministry.
Later, he became Bishop of Constantinople.
It was his skillful preaching
that earned him the nickname “Chrysostom,”
which means “Golden-Mouthed.”

Behold a new and wondrous mystery.

My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song,
piping no soft melody,
but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn.
The Angels sing.
The Archangels
blend their voice in harmony.
The Cherubim hymn
their joyful praise.
The Seraphim exalt His glory.
All join to praise this holy feast,
beholding the Godhead here on earth,
and man in heaven.
He Who is above,
now for our redemption dwells here below;
and he that was lowly
is by divine mercy raised.

Bethlehem this day resembles heaven;
hearing from the stars
the singing of angelic voices;
and in place of the sun,
enfolds within itself on every side,
the Sun of justice.
And ask not how:
for where God wills,
the order of nature yields.
For He willed;
He had the power;
He descended;
He redeemed;
all things yielded in obedience to God.
This day He Who is,
is Born;
and He Who is,
becomes what He was not.
For when He was God,
He became man;
yet not departing from the Godhead
that is His.
Nor yet by any loss of divinity
became He man,
nor through increase
became He God from man;
but being the Word He became flesh,
His nature,
because of impassability,
remaining unchanged.

And so the kings have come,
and they have seen the heavenly King
that has come upon the earth,
not bringing with Him Angels,
nor Archangels,
nor Thrones,
nor Dominations,
nor Powers,
nor Principalities,
but, treading a new and solitary path,
He has come forth from a spotless womb.

Since this heavenly birth
cannot be described,
neither does His coming amongst us in these days
permit of too curious scrutiny.
Though I know that a Virgin
this day gave birth,
and I believe that God was begotten
before all time,
yet the manner of this generation
I have learned to venerate in silence
and I accept that this is not to be probed too curiously
with wordy speech.

For with God
we look not for the order of nature,
but rest our faith in the power
of Him who works.

What shall I say to you;
what shall I tell you?
I behold a Mother
who has brought forth;
I see a Child
come to this light by birth.
The manner of His conception
I cannot comprehend.

Nature here rested,
while the Will of God labored.
O ineffable grace!
The Only Begotten,
Who is before all ages,
Who cannot be touched
or be perceived,
Who is simple,
without body,
has now put on my body,
that is visible and liable to corruption.
For what reason?
That coming amongst
us he may teach us,
and teaching,
lead us by the hand
to the things that men cannot see.
For since men believe
that the eyes are more trustworthy than the ears,
they doubt of that which they do not see,
and so He has deigned to show Himself
in bodily presence,
that He may remove all doubt.

finding the holy body and soul of the Virgin,
builds for Himself a living temple,
and as He had willed,
formed there a man from the Virgin;
and, putting Him on,
this day came forth;
unashamed of the lowliness of our nature.

For it was to Him
no lowering to put on
what He Himself had made.
Let that handiwork
be forever glorified,
which became the cloak of its own Creator.
For as in the first creation of flesh,
man could not be made before the clay
had come into His hand,
so neither could this corruptible body be glorified,
until it had first become the garment of its Maker.

What shall I say!
And how shall I describe this Birth to you?
For this wonder fills me with astonishment.
The Ancient of Days
has become an infant.
He Who sits
upon the sublime and heavenly Throne,
now lies in a manger.
And He Who cannot be touched,
Who is simple,
without complexity,
and incorporeal,
now lies subject to the hands of men.
He Who has broken the bonds of sinners,
is now bound by an infants bands.
But He has decreed
that ignominy shall become honor,
infamy be clothed with glory,
and total humiliation
the measure of His Goodness.

For this He assumed my body,
that I may become capable of His Word;
taking my flesh,
He gives me His spirit;
and so He bestowing and I receiving,
He prepares for me the treasure of Life.
He takes my flesh,
to sanctify me;
He gives me His Spirit that
He may save me.

Come, then,
let us observe the Feast.
Truly wondrous
is the whole chronicle
of the Nativity.
For this day
the ancient slavery is ended,
the devil confounded,
the demons take to flight,
the power of death is broken,
paradise is unlocked,
the curse is taken away,
sin is removed from us,
error driven out,
truth has been brought back,
the speech of kindliness diffused,
and spreads on every side,
a heavenly way of life
has been implanted on the earth,
angels communicate with men without fear,
and men now hold speech with angels.

Why is this?
Because God is now on earth,
and man in heaven;
on every side all things commingle.
He became Flesh.
He did not become God.
He was God.
Wherefore He became flesh,
so that He Whom heaven did not contain,
a manger would this day receive.
He was placed in a manger,
so that He,
by whom all things are nourished,
may receive an infant’s food
from His Virgin Mother.
So, the Father of all ages,
as an infant at the breast,
nestles in the virginal arms,
that the Magi may more easily see Him.
Since this day
the Magi too have come,
and made a beginning of withstanding tyranny;
and the heavens give glory,
as the Lord is revealed by a star.

To Him, then,
Who out of confusion has wrought a clear path,
to Christ, to the Father, and to the Holy Spirit,
we offer all praise, now and forever. Amen.

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