Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS DAY, 1931.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The Manger is the throne of Divine condescension. The throne of Divine glory is in Heaven. We are concerned now with the throne of Divine condescension. Yet we should keep these two thrones together in our minds. The throne of condescension; The throne of glory: Upon each of them God reigns supreme.
On Christmas Day, God the Son came forth from the Father. On Ascension Day He ascended to the Father. We must keep these two days together in our minds. God came down from Heaven. God ascended into Heaven. We who have met at the Manger must not fail to meet at the Mountain. Christmas Day brought tidings of joy to men. Ascension Day brought tidings of joy to angels. The test of the reality of Christmas Day devotion is the reality of Ascension Day devotion.
The Holy Child has a long and terrible road before Him. He will battle His way on from Bethlehem to Egypt, to Nazareth, to the desert, to Jerusalem, to Gethsemane, to Calvary, to the garden, before He arrives at the mountain and the cloud, on the far side of which He will see the Gates of Heaven flung open wide to receive Him. That road is the road of life. It is your road and my road, and the road of any one and every one who cares enough to follow. It is the road of reparation, redemption and release. It is the road that leads out and away from the former things, straight on and into the new. It is the road of miracles. For it comes to pass that they who take it are cleansed as they go. It is the road of life. For they who travel it find more abundant life. It is an ageless road. For they who follow it become as little children.
The Holy Child is the Saviour of the world. His mission is to save from their sins those who call upon His Name. It is a mission upon which only the Son of God could be sent. Its fulfilment lies infinitely beyond the power of man. The forgiveness of sins is a Divine mystery. This is why it is an article of the Creed. It comes after the mysteries of the Three Divine Persons. It comes after the mystery of the Church. It is followed by the mystery of the resurrection of the body. All these mysteries are recognized and believed as mysteries. But the forgiveness of sins is rarely recognized and believed as a Divine mystery. It is treated as being within the compass of human understanding. It is measured by the range of human analogy and sounded. by the shallowness of human experience. The result is that very frequently orthodox Christians miss the mystery of Divine forgiveness, even though they believe all the other articles of the Creed. The consequence is that they lose the very joy that God came to bring and the very faith which would save them. Their religion at this point degenerates into servile fear, self-regarding bargaining and debilitating scrupulosity.
Now the cure for this is to learn and to remember that sin is so serious a disorder of human nature that only God Himself can cure it. The second thing to learn and to remember is that God did come to cure it.
This is the one thing above all others that the world needs to understand if it would be extricated from its present plight. When it does learn it will find at the Manger a Merry Christmas.
Affectionately in Our Lord,