And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped Him in swaddling-clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
I shall not need to tell you who this 'she,' or who this 'him.' The day rises with it in its wings. This day wrote it with the first ray of the morning sun upon the posts of the world. The angels sung it in their choirs, the morning stars together in their courses. The Virgin Mother, the Eternal Son. The most blessed among women, the fairest of the sons of men. The woman clothed with the sun: the sun compassed with a woman. She the gate of heaven: He the King of glory who came forth. She the mother of the everlasting God: He God without a mother; God blessed for evermore. Great persons as ever met upon a day.
Yet as great as the persons, and as great as the day, the great lesson of them both is to be little, to think and make little of ourselves; seeing the infinite greatness in this day become so little, Eternity a Child, the rays of glory wrapt in rags, Heaven crowded into the corner of a stable, and He who is everywhere wants a room.
I may at other times have spoken great and glorious things, both of the persons and the day: but I am determined to-day to know nothing but Jesus Christ in rags, but Jesus Christ in a manger. And I hope I shall have your company along: [77/78] your thoughts will be my thoughts, and my thoughts yours, and both Christ's; all upon His humility and our own. This is our first-born, which we are this day to bring forth, for it is a day of bringing forth; this we are to wrap up in our memories, this to lay up in our hearts; this the blessed mother, this the blessed Babe; this the condition, and place, and time we find them in, the taxing time, the beast's manger, the swaddling-clouts,--all this day to preach to us.
The day indeed is a high day, the persons high estates; but the case we find them in, and the esteem too the day is lately in, is low enough to teach us humility, and lowliness at the lowest.
With this day is great, and the person great, and the text great too; and time, perhaps, you think it is that it bring forth Come, then, let us see what God has sent us in it.
A mother and a child, swaddling-clouts to wrap it, and a manger for a cradle to lay it in, and all other room or place denied it quite. There are the plain and evident parcels of the text, in number five.
But the whole business is between two persons, the mother and the child; and it has two considerations besides the letter, a moral lesson and a mystery. The one sufficiently brought forth, and laid before us; a plain lesson of humility from all points and persons. The other, wrapped up and involved in the swaddling clothes, and manger, and want of inn-room; no in the tender mother, her care and travel. For each may have its mystery, and the text no injury; nay hath its mystery, and the text injury if it be not so considered. That is the way, that not one èta, one tittle, of the Law or Gospel may fall to the ground, or scrap or fragment may be lost.
We shall do so then;--read you first that great lecture of humility, which Christ this day taught us by His birth, and all the circumstances of it here so punctually expressed;--and then show you a mystery in every circumstance. For so great a business as this fell not out by chance, not the circumstances at haphazard; but a reason of all there is to be given: why Christ was born, why of such a mother at such a time, under such a name, in such a place, why so [78/79] wrapped and laid, and no fit room allowed Him. And when we have done so, we will see whether He will now meet better usage with us than in the inn He did to-day; and learn you by His happy mother, how to wrap, and where to lay Him.
I begin to run over the words first, as so many points of His humility. And seven degrees it rises by; seven particulars in them we take it from. 1. His being 'brought forth' or born. 2. His mother, 'she.' 3. His wrapping up. 4. His clothes He was wrapped in. 5. His laying in the manger. 6. The no respect He meets with in the inn, 'no room' there for Him. And lastly, the time when this was done. In the days of taxing, then was this blessed Mother's time accomplished, in the words just before: and then 'she brought forth her first-born son.' Thus the et, the 'and,' couples all, and gives us the time of the story, that we may know where and how to find it, in the Roman records by the year of the taxes.
The first step of His humiliation was to be 'born,' and brought forth by a woman; the only-begotten Son of the Immortal God, to become the first-born of a mortal woman. The first-born of every creature, to become the first-born of so silly a creature. Lord, what is man, that Thou shouldst become the son of a woman? But if Thou wouldst needs become a man, why by the way of a woman? Why did Thou not fit thyself of a body some other way? Thou couldst have framed thyself a human body of some purer matter than the purest of corrupted natures: but such is thy humility, that 'Thou didst not abhor the virgin's womb,' wouldst be brought forth as other men, that we might not think of ourselves above men, how great or good soever thou makest us.
But, 2. if He would be born of a woman, could He not have chosen an othergates than 'she,' than a poor carpenter's wife? Some great queen or lady had been fitter far to have made as it were the Queen of Heaven, and Mother to the heir of all the world. But respexit humiltatem ancillae, it was the lowliness of this His holy handmaid that He looked to; it was for her humility He chose to be born of her before any other: that we may know, 1, whom it is that the Eternal Wisdom [79/80] will vouchsafe to dwell with, even the humble and lowly; that, 2, we may see He even studies to descend as low as possible, that so even the meanest might come to Him without fear; that, 3, we should henceforth despise no man for his parentage, nor bear ourselves high upon our birth and stock.
Our descent and kindred are no such business to make us proud. Christ comes as soon to the low cottage as to the loftiest palace, to the handmaid as to the mistress, to the poor as to the rich; no, prefers them here, honours a poor humble maid above all the gallant ladies of the world. For God thus to be made man, man of a woman, the eternal Being begin to be, Infinity to be encompassed in a virgin's womb; He whose goings out are from everlasting, now to seem first to be brought forth, but now lately born; riches itself the son of poverty; so far to debase Himself! Who, indeed, can sufficiently express this His generation? Also the poorness, meanness, contemptibleness, humbleness of it? His delight surely is to be with the lowly, that thus picks and culls out low things.
You will say so, 3, most, if you consider his wrapping up, as well as his coming forth. He that measures the heavens with His span, the waters in the hollow of His hand, who involves all things, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, in whom all our beings and well-beings, the decrees and fates of the world, are wrapped from all eternity; he now comes to be wrapped and made up like a new-born child;--which can unwind or unfold His humility? Will our Master be thus dealt with as a child--thus handled like the common infant? And shall we hereafter think much the best of us to be used like other men? Away with all our nicenesses henceforward, and be content that ourselves and ours should be in all this subject to the common fate of the sons of men.
Nor think we much, 2, to be wrapped up, and bound sometimes, and denied the liberty of a straggling power to hurt ourselves; but ever thank the hand that binds us up, and takes care of us when we either cannot or know not how to help ourselves; would undo ourselves, if we were left loose; which in another English is too true, too often let undone. He who binds all things with His word, makes them up in [80/81] His wisdom, and wraps them in the mantle of His protection, was content to be bound as a Child, when He was a Child; as if He had wholly laid aside His power, humbled Himself to be under the power and discretion of a simple woman, nurse and mother. To teach us again the humility of a child, to behave ourselves in every condition, and submit in it as it requires; if children, to be content with the usage of children; if subjects, with the condition of subjects; if servants, of servants, and the like.
The clothes his dear Mother wrapped him in are, 4, the very badges of humility; sp£rganou is a rag, or torn and tattered clothes: such were the clothes she wrapped Him in--such, He is so humble, He will be content with, even with rags. What makes we then such ado for clothes? Jacob would bargain with God no further than for raiment to put on: he covenanted with him not for fashion, nor colour, nor stuff, nor trimming: and our blessed Lord here is content with what comes next. But, Lord! to see what ado have we about our apparel! this lace, and that trimming; this fashion, and that colour; these jewels, and those accoutrements; this cloth, and that stuff; this silk, and that velvet; this silver, and that gold; this way of wearing, and that garb in them; as if our whole life were raiment, our clothes heaven, and our salvation the handsome wearing them. We forget, we forget our sweet Saviour's rags, his poor ragged swaddling-clothes; and our garments witness against us to our faces, our pride, our follies, our vanities at the best. He that, as Job says, makes the cloud 'the garment of the sea, and thick darkness a swaddling-band for it,' he lets His own swaddling-bands be made of anything, His own clothes of any sp£rganou, any torn pieces; to give us a lesson not to be solicitous of what we should put on, or wherewith we should be clothed, but be content to be clothed as He does the grass, when and how He pleases. It is no shame to be in rags and tatters, if they be but Christ's; if they come by Him, not by our own ill husbandries, and intemperances; if for His sake or cause we are brought to them. Clothes are but to cover shame, and defend us from cold; they make not a man, nor commend any to God. Lazarus' rags are better wearing than Dives' purple and fine linen.
[81/82] There is a part of humility as well as modesty, that consists in apparel; and this part is here commended to us by our Saviour's condition, that howsoever the giddy-gallants of the world think of it, the sober Christians of the Church should not think strange to see themselves in rags, which our Lord has thus rent and torn out to us.
5. Well, but though He was content to be wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and those none of the handsomest neither, may we not look for a cradle at least to lay Him in? No matter what we may look for, we are like to find no better than a manger for that purpose, and a lock of hay for His bed, and for His pillow, and for His mantle too. A poor condition, and an humble one indeed, for Him whose chariot is the clouds, whose palace is in heaven, whose throne is with the Most High. What place can we hereafter think too mean for any of us? Stand you here, sit you here, under my foot-stool--places of exceeding honour compared to this. What, not a room among men, not among the meanest, in some smoky cottage, or ragged cell; but among beasts? Whither hast thy humility driven Thou, O Saviour of mankind? Why, mere pity of a woman in Thy Mother's case, O Lord, would have made the most obdurate have removed her from the horses' feet, the asses' heels, the company of unruly beasts, from the ordure and nastiness of a stable: but that we, O Lord, might see what we had made ourselves, mere beasts, as lustful as the horse, as sottish as the ass, as proud and untamed as the bulls, as bent to earthly drudgeries and yokes as the ox and heifer, that You were fain even to come thither to find us out and redeem us. This note will humble us if any can, and make us not think much, if God at any time deal with us as beasts, whip us, and spur us, beat us with the staff, prick us with the goad, feed us with hard meat, like such things as they, seeing we are now become like them, as says the Psalmist. To descend from the host of heaven, to be the companion of beasts; from the bosom of His Father, to the concave of a manger; is such a descent of humility; that we have no more understanding than the very beasts to express it. Go, man, and sit down now in the lowest room thou canst, thou canst not sit so low as lay thy Saviour. [83/84] S. Jerome was so much devoted to the contemplation of this strange humility of His Master in this particular, that he spent many of his years near the place of this hallowed manger. And S. Luke, in S. Ambrose's interpretation, pleases himself much in the recounting of this circumstance of His Saviour's birth; and indeed any may so conjecture it, that considers how often he repeats it in so little compass, thrice within ten verses -the 7th, 12th, and 16th. And, say I, let others seek Him in the courts of princes, in the head of an army, under a canopy of state, in a cradle of gold or ivory; I will seek Him to-day where He was laid, whither the angel sent the shepherds found Him, in a manger, in a stable,--in the humble and lowly heart, that, in an humble sense of his unworthiness, cries out with Agur, 'Surely I am more brutish than man, and have not the understanding of a man,' even thinks himself fit for a manger; nay, not worthy of it, since His Lord lay in it.
6. But the manger is not the worst; the disrespect that forced Him thither, that is the hardest: 'that there was no room for them in the inn, no room for them,'--aÙtoÐj, eis; 'no room for them,'--mark that. It is not said there was no room, no room at all in the inn, but none for them; they were so poor, it seems, and their outward appearance so contemptible, that notwithstanding the condition of a woman great with child, and so near her time, they were put away without respect or regard. To have fallen by chance or some accident into so mean a place, or have been driven thither by sudden storms or tempest, and so frighted into travail, had been no such wonder, peradventure; but to be driven thither by the unkindness and inhumanity of one's own countrymen and tribe too, is a trial of humility indeed; but to choose to be so, (for He knew all from the beginning before it came to pass,) so to contrive all things for it, and suffer the uncivil ruggedness of men to drive Him out to dwell and lodge among beasts; to have contempt thrown upon His poverty, and neglect added to all inconveniences, is, sure, to teach us humility in the harshest usages we meet with. He that made all places, finds none Himself, and is content. He that hath many mansions for others in His Father's house, hath not the [83/84] least lobby in an inn, and repines not at it. He that would have given this churlish host an eternal house in heaven for asking for, cannot have a cabin for any hire, because His parents seem so poor; and yet He fetches not fire from heaven to consume Him for His inhumanity.
How unlike us, I pray! For whom no downy pallets are soft enough, no room sufficiently spacious and majestic, no furniture enough costly, no attendance sufficient all respect too little. Do we ever call to mind this our Saviour's first entertainment in the world, or think we are no better than our Master? He could have come in state, in glory, in all magnificence and pomp, attended with all respect and honour; but would not for our sakes most, that we might see what He most delights in, and learn it as much by His example as His precept.
7. And yet there is a seventh degree of His humility--to let all this be done to Him in such a public time and place; when the whole world was met together to be taxed, where so many were gathered in such a place of meeting as an inn, when the whole city is filled from one corner to another, there and then to be so used, so despised, so scorned, as a sign of men, and the outcast of the people, ranked with the horse and ass. To have so many witnesses of affronts and contempts put upon Him, to condescend and order so to have it done, is the highest of humility: for not only to think meanly of ourselves, but to desire to have all others think meanly of us, is so hard a text, that I fear me few can bear it. Whatever we suffer or to whatsoever meannesses and under offices we condescend, we would not willingly have others think the worse of us for it; there is too often a pride in our good works that lies lurking under them, we scarce can throw it off; but it is that, it is that above the rest that we should endeavour,--to be content to be trampled on and despised for Him who was so for us.
Sum we up now the points of Christ's humility: to leave His Father's bosom for the Virgin's womb, the great riches in heaven for great poverty upon earth, to wrap up His immensity in swaddling clothes, His robes of glory in clouts and rags, forsake His throne for a manger, the adoration of saints and angels for the disrespects of a surly host, to be seen in [84/85] this mean pickle to all the world. Domine, quis similis tui? O Lord, who is like to thee May we say this way also in thy humility as well as in thy glory? And sure we cannot hereafter any of us grudge to be in rags, in sheep-skins and goat-skins, in dens and caves of the earth, destitute, neglected, forsaken, repulsed, condemned; but humble ourselves to the meanest condition, without any great reflection upon our birth or former estates and conditions, if Christ will at any time require it of us; seeing the servant is not better than His master nor the dry tree than the green; and if to Him all this was done, we should frame our minds at least to a humility to undergo it.
I have run over the plain song of the words, the plain lesson of humility that is in them without straining. I must back over again to descant out the mysteries that lie under them.
'And she brought forth.' 'Before she travailed she brought forth; before her pain came she was delivered of a man child;' so prophesies Isaiah, and so the Fathers do apply it. she conceived without corruption, and brought forth without sorrow; the very text may bear witness to it; for 'she wrapped it in the swaddling clothes, and she laid it in the manger,' say s. Luke. No women, it seems, near to help her: for she who needed not the help of man to conceive, needed no help of woman, sure, to bring forth: no corruption, no sorrow. A great mystery none ever like it to begin with.
But she a virgin, thus bringing forth, affords us a second too, to instruct us what souls they are of whom Christ is born: pure and virgin, chaste and holy, only, that bring forth Him. And the first-born He will be, ever should be, of all our thoughts; will be acknowledged so whenever born; primogenitus, one before whom none; for that only is the sense of first-born here, not referring to any after but to none before: 'begotten before any creature,' in honour above all creatures, endued with all the rights of primogeniture, even as man also. Now, three things belonged to the first-born son: the priestshood, the pre-eminence or regal dignity, and a double or larger portion. He is the 'High-priest of our profession;' the great High-priest of the [85/86] Christian profession and religion. He, 2, 'the Head of the Church,' 'To whom all power is given in heaven and earth.' He, 3, also 'anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows;'--a portion of 'grace' far above others. 'That in all things He might have the pre-eminence, being the first-born, as well of the dead as the living,' says S. Paul. All these mysteries we have wrapped up in the title of the First-born, that by it He is intimated to be our Prince, our Priest, our Elder Brother, one in whom all fullness; who should be therefore so acknowledged and used, be first entertained in our affections, be the first birth our souls should travail with and our affections and actions bring forth.
But there are more wrapped up in his being wrapped in swaddling clothes, than can readily be expressed. All the benefits that came by him were wrapped up and not understood, till the clothes both of the manger and the grave were unwrapped by his resurrection. He seemed not what he was, showed not what he came for, until then. All the while before, nothing but folds and things folded up: the cross made up or involved in his cratch, (for of the form of a cross the cratch, some say, was made,) man's salvation in God's incarnation, the church's growth in the Virgin's bringing forth, many brethren, in the First-born among them.
His glory, 2, that was wrapped up in those clothes: His Godhead in the manhood, the Word in flesh, eternity in days, righteousness in a body like to a body of sin, wisdom in the infancy of a child, abundance in poverty, glory in disrespect, the fountain of grace in a dry barren dusty land, eternal light in clouds, and everlasting life in the very image of death. Will you see the clothes that hid this treasure, not from men only, but from devils? The espousals of just Joseph and holy Mary hid Christ's conception of a virgin; the crying of an infant in a cradle, the bringing forth without sorrow; the purification, her entire virginity; the circumcision, his extraordinary generation without any sin: His flight concealed His power, His baptism, His unspotted innocence; His open prayers to His Father, His infinite authority and equality with Him: His sad sufferings obscured His perfect righteousness; the poverty and meanness of His [86/87] life, the height and greatness of His birth; and the ignominy of His death, the immensity of His glory.
His gospel, 3, that was wrapped up in clothes, that seeing we might see and not presently understand, a mystery kept secret since the world began; His doctrine wrapped in parables, His grace covered in the sacraments, the inward grace in the outward elements, His great apostolic function in poor simple fishermen, His Universal Church in a few obscured disciples of Judaea, the height of His knowledge in the simplicity of faith, the excellency of His precepts in the plainness of His speech, and the glory of the end they drive to in the humility of the way they lead. Well may the prophet [Isaiah] exclaim, Vere tu es Deus absconditus! 'Verily thou art a God who hides thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour!' Well may we admire thy folds and wrappings up, O God, and not strive to pry into thy secrets, thy goings out and thy comings in: and all thy counsels are past finding out; to thou only it belongs to know them, to us to obey and submit to them and adore them.
Yet, 4, He was thus wrapped up to show us our condition, that the beauty and sweetness of Christianity as well as Christ, of Christians as well as Christ, appears not outwardly, or but in rags. We cannot see the Christian's strength for the weaknesses that surround him, nor his joy for the afflictions that encompass him, nor his happiness for the worldly calamities that oppress him, nor his wisdom for the foolishness of preaching that so much delights him, nor his riches for the poor conditions he is sometimes brought to, nor his honour for the scoffs and reproaches of the world he often labours under. He seems unknown when he is well known, dying when he only lives, killed when he is but chastened, sorrowful though always rejoicing, poor yet making rich, as having nothing and possessing all things. Thus the Christian, you see is wrapped up as soon as he is born; no, and his very life also is wrapped up 'with Christ in God.'
Nay, lastly, our practice and duty is wrapped up with Him. He is wrapped up in poor clothes, that we might be wrapped up in stola prima, 'the best robe,' His robe of righteousness, that we might put on the while linen of the [87/88] saints. Wrapped up again, 2, He was, His hands and feet bound up like a child's, that by virtue of it our hands and feet might be loosed to do the works of Christ, and run the way of peace: He is made a child, that we might be perfect men in Him; He brought forth, that we might bring forth the fruits of good works and godly living.
The next mysteries lie couched with Him in the manger; where in a straight and narrow compass He lies, that He may open heaven wide to all believers, all who keep a straight and strict watch over their ways and actions.
Where, 2, uses to lie the beasts' provender, there lies He also who is the Bread that came down from heaven to feed us, who are often more unreasonable than the beasts. They know their owner: the ox and ass do so, says God, but my people do not theirs; they will but satisfy nature, men are grown so sensual they cannot be satisfied. We have made ourselves fit for the manger, which made Christ lie there, to see if He could fill us, seeing nothing can.
3. In the manger among the beasts, that we might sadly consider what we have made ourselves, and change our sensual lives, now He is come into the stable to call us out.
4. There He lies in a place without any furniture or trimming up: that we might by the place be instructed that the beauty of Christ wants no external setting out; that, 2, His beauty is omnis ab intus, 'all within,' and His spouse is all-glorious within; that, 3, our eyes might not be diverted from Him by any outward splendours, but wholly fixed upon himself; that, 4, by His very first appearance we might know His kingdom was not of this world. He was no temporal King, we might see by His furniture and palace; that, lastly, we might know He came to teach us new ways of life, and sanctify to us the way of poverty and humility.
5, In the stable. For so, f£tuh, a place for horses by the way; that we might understand our life here is but a journey, and our longest stay but that of travellers by the way; and therefore there He places Himself for all comers, by His incarnation and birth, to conduct them home into their country, our country which is above.
[88/89] Nor is it, 6, without a mystery, that there was no room for Him in the inn. Inns are places of much resort and company, and no wonder if Christ be too commonly thrust out thence. They are made houses of licentiousness and revelling; no wonder if Christ be not suffered to be there. They are places of more worldly business; and no wonder neither that there is often there no room for Him, when the business is so different from His, and men's minds so much taken up with it. Into the stable, or whither He will, He may go for them, they heed Him not, 'there is no room for Him in the inn,' that is, where much company, or riot, or too much worldly business is.
That 'there was no room for Him in the inn,' puts us to inquire how it came about, and we find it was a time of the greatest concourse; and in that also, lastly, there is a mystery. All this done at such a time, that so all might know that it belonged to all to know the birth and posture of their Saviour, His coming, and His coming in humility to save them. At such a time, in such a place, in such a case, so poor, so forlorn, so despicable, without respect, without conveniences, wast thou born O Lord; that we through thy want, might abound, through thy neglect, might be regarded, through thy want of room, room on earth, might find room in heaven! Oh happy rags, more precious than the purple of kings and emperors! O holy manger, more glorious than their golden thrones! The poverty of those rags are our riches, the baseness of the manger our glory; His wrapping and binding up, our loosing from death and hell; and His 'no room,' our eternal mansions.
Thus we have twice run over the text, picked out both the moral and the mystery of every circumstance in our Saviour's birth; I hope we have showed you mystery enow, and you have seen humility enough. But it is not enough to see the one or the other, unless now we take up the Virgin's part, which is behind, bring forth this First-born to ourselves; suffer Him to born in us, who was born for us; and bring forth Christ in our lives, wrap Him and lay Him up with all the tenderness of a Mother.
The pure virgin pious soul is this 'she' who brings forth Christ; the nourishing and cherishing of Him and all [89/90] His gifts and graces, is this wrapping Him in swaddling clothes; they laying up His word, His promises and precepts in our hearts, is the laying Him in the manger.
What though there be no room for Him in the inn, though the world will not entertain Him? The devout soul will find a place to lay Him in, though it have nothing of its own but rags, a poor ragged righteousness: for our righteousness, says the prophet, 'is but menstruous rags:' yet the best it has it will lay Him in; and though it have nothing but a manger, a poor straight narrow soul, one of the cleanliest either to lodge Him in; yet, such as it is, He will command it, His lying there will cleanse it, and His righteousness piece our rags.
What though there be no room for Him in the inn? I hope there is is our houses for Him. It is Christmas time, and let us keep open house for Him; let His rags be our Christmas raiment, His manger our Christmas cheer, His stable our Christmas great chamber, hall dining-room. We must clothe with Him, and feed with Him, and lodge with Him at this feast. He is now ready by and by to give Himself to eat; you may see Him wrapped ready in the swaddling clothes of His blessed sacrament; you may behold Him laid upon the altar as in his manger. Do but make room for Him, and we will bring Him forth, and you will look upon him, and handle Him, and feed upon Him: bring we only the rags of a rent and torn and broken and contrite heart, the while linen cloths of pure intentions and honest affections to swathe Him in, wrap him up fast, and lay Him close to our souls and bosoms. It is a day of mysteries: it is a mysterious business we are about; Christ wrapped up, Christ in the sacrament, Christ in a mystery; let us be content to let it go so, believe, admire and adore it. It is sufficient that we know Christ's swaddling clothes: His righteousness will keep us warmer than all our winter garments; His rags hold out more storms than our thickest clothes: let us put them on. His manger feeds us better than all the Asian delicates, all the dainties of the world; let us feed our souls upon Him. His stable is not hanged here with arras, or decked with gilded furniture; but it is hung infinitely with gifts and graces: the stable is dark, but there is the Light of the world to enlighten it. [90/91] The smell of the beasts, our sins, are perfumed and taken away with the sweet odours of holy pardon and forgiveness; the incondite noise of the ox and ass and horse are stilled with the music of the heavenly host; the noise of our sins, with the promises of the Gospel this day brought to us. Let us not then think much to take Him wrapped up, that is, in a mystery, without examining how and which way we receive Him; it is in the condition He comes to us. Let us be content with Him in His rags, in His humblest and lowest condition; it is the way He comes to-day: let us ourselves wrap and lay him up in the best place we can find for Him, though the best we have will be little better than a manger.
What though there be no room for Him in the inn, in worldly souls? I hope yet ours will entertain Him, invite Him too, and say, as Laban said to Abraham's servant, 'Come in, you blessed of the Lord;' come in, come in, You blessed Child, come in. 'Wherefore standest thou without? I have prepared the house, and room for the camels;' the house for thee, my soul for thee thyself, and my body for the camels,--those outward elements that are to convey thee. They are not fitted, they are not fitted as thou deservest; but thou that here acceptest of rages, accept my poor ragged preparations. Thou who refused not the manger, refuse not the manger of my unworthy heart to lie in, but accept a room in thy servant's soul; turn in to him and abide with him. Thy poverty, O sweet Jesu, will be my patrimony, thy weakness my strength, thy rags my riches, thy manger my kingdom; all the dainties of the world, but chaff to me in comparison of thee; and all the room in the world, no room to that, wheresoever it is, that thou vouchsafest to be. Heaven it is wheresoever thou stayest or abidest; and I shall change all the house and wealth I have for thy rags and manger.
These holy births and raptures or the like, must our souls this day bring forth to answer this day's blessed birth. It is a day of bringing forth; sure, then, there is no being barren. Bring forth fruits therefore worthy of repentance; these Christ this day came to call for: bring forth fruits worthy of the day, and the blessing of it, holiness, thankfulness, and humility, faith and piety, they become it. Bring our first-born, [91/92] our first and chiefest thoughts, our prime and chief endeavours, to attend Him from His cratch to His cross: wrap we up and bind our souls with holy resolutions to His perpetual service, lay them humbly at His feet; let not His poverty or rags or manger or reproach, fright or scare us from it, but make room for Him, and receive Him; lay Him up and bind Him fast unto our souls, visit Him with the shepherds, and sing of Him with the angels, and rejoice in His birth, with all its happy and mysterious circumstances. So when the First-born from the dead will come again to raise us up, come wrapped in clouds and robed in glory, we shall be caught up to meet Him in the clouds, and be received of Him into eternal dwellings, there to follow Him in long white robes, and be with Him for ever.
Be it so unto Your servants, O Lord.