Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 1929.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
Advent! Lo He comes! We begin to prepare for the coming of the Lord. He came to us because we could not come to Him. He came before we knew Him. He came before we were willing to receive Him. For this very reason He came. That we might learn to know Him. That we might learn to receive Him. Not that we first loved Him, but that He first loved us. This is the outstanding mystery of the Advent. To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the Sons of God. There were the few, the very few, who received Him. They, when they had received Him, were given power to become the Sons of God. First the coming, then the receiving, then the power. Here is the history in three words of every conversion to the Christian religion.
Conversions are delayed because and whenever the order is reversed. Pride lies back of that reversal. Pride which would place power first. Power of intellect which seeks first to make a place which may invite the modern mind to make an inn within itself for Him whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain. Pride which conceives a condescending reception under certain limiting conditions, into a superior modern world which is quite capable of taking care of itself. Pride which regards man’s advent into God’s domain as the final achievement of a race which has succeeded in attaining to the measure of the stature of the fulness of the superman.
This is all very modern. And it is all very old. It is all very futile. And it explains why, when the real Advent really happened, there was no room in the inn. The story we have to tell once more is not the story of man’s approach to God. It is the story of God’s approach to man. It is not a complacent narrative of a man who dared to be God. It is the awe-inspiring history of God who dared to become man. God’s advent is the astounding, shattering, blinding, reassuring, rebuilding, illuminating fact of the miraculous Nativity, for which we are preparing ourselves in these weeks of preparation for the Feast of the Nativity. By one supreme act of Divine love, the Lord of Christmas-tide, put down the mighty from their seats and exalted the humble and meek. By one supreme self giving He filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich empty away.
The preparation of Advent is the recognition of the need of humbleness of mind and meekness of spirit and hunger of heart. They who can receive this can receive Him. And they will find that they have no long journey to Bethlehem. For Bethlehem will be wherever they are. They, too, may go to see the things that have come to pass. And having come they may wonder with shepherds and worship with wise men, and praise with Angels, because God came.
The world is never prepared for the Advent. It is always a surprise. Our Lord always comes suddenly. Suddenly because we are stupid. We ought to have guessed. We ought to have known. But we never do.
The one hopeful thing about the world today is that it is so stupid, so silly, so mad and sad. It does not know it. If it did it would not be stupid. It is the old, old story, all over again. The world is bearing about all that it can stand under. It needs God. It can’t come to God. So this is the very time for the sudden coming of God. The age of reason has had its dreary day and its devastating night. We are all sick of it. It is time for the return of the age of Faith. We are all longing for it. And all the signs are here. We can go no farther. God must come.
And He will. But not all the world will know Him. Not all of His own will receive Him. But to as many as receive Him, to them will He give power to become the Sons of God.
Affectionately in Our Lord,