Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS, 1934.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The Gospel for today gives us two points for Christmastide meditation in which we shall find the substance of Christmas joy. "Thou shall call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." "They shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us."
It is God's will to save us from our sins. It is God's plan to save us by being with us while we are being saved. If we can grasp this we shall understand the connection between the Manger, the Cross, the Empty Tomb and the Altar. If we can apprehend the Emmanuel in the Manger, the Saviour on the Cross, the Victor of the Empty Sepulchre, the Emmanuel—Saviour on the Altar, we shall have the Gospel of Redemption in clear outline.
In the light of nature we can find no hope for redemption. The law of cause and consequence is inexorable. "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he reap." Nor can we find ground for complaint on the score of injustice. If this were really the end of the tragedy of spiritual and moral failure, there would be nothing but spiritual death and moral decay to look forward to.
At this point comes the first flash of the good news from heaven. It is not God's will that we should die but live. It is not God's will that the purpose for which we were created should be defeated. It is quite true that a miracle of redemption is beyond our power to understand or to achieve. This is precisely why the work of redemption is a miracle. A miracle is an act of God, for which no force or combination of forces known to us can account. So what man cannot do for himself, God wills to do for him. Jesus Christ is God. Because He is God He can be Saviour. In the Manger each of us sees God. At the Manger each of us looks for the miracle of redemption.
Because Our Lord is Emmanuel, God with us, He makes the way and marks the way of redemption and accompanies each pilgrim on the way. The way is measured for each. No two ways are quite alike because no two people are quite alike. But there is one end for all. Whatever the experiences may be, each is an experience in discipleship. Through the period of probation He measures every test and regulates it and determines its duration. One test may be for the stabilizing of penitence. Another may be for the purpose of affording opportunity for reparation. Another may be for the purpose of schooling us in resignation. Of one thing we may be sure. Each, if rightly used, will accomplish a definite and desirable result. And always we may be sure that Our Lord never leaves us for one moment.
We must understand this, and we must drill ourselves in the practise of the Presence of God. It is not difficult. In fact the Christian Religion is the religion of the Presence of God. The Sacraments are acts of God, regenerating, confirming, absolving, feeding, sacrificing, blessing. All this is infinitely beyond any human power. It is only in the doctrine of Emmanuel, God with us, that the Sacraments are intelligible and credible. The doctrine of the Presence of God explains prayer.
We can only speak to, and be spoken to, by a Person whom we believe to be present. The practise of the interior life of the soul becomes practicable and within easy reach when we understand that Christ in us is our hope of glory.
Most of this interior life is hidden from us. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him." This is the high and joyous adventure which we begin at the Manger.
Affectionately in Our Lord,