Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS DAY, 1937.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
"Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." This was the command delivered by the angel to Saint Joseph. "He shall save his people from their sins."
The word used for sin is the word that means "missing the mark." Sin does that. It never gets to what it promises. It misses it. It leaves its victim off the course, out of the running, on the edge of nowhere, confused, dazed, lost. Sin is its own worst punishment. The punishments, and they are endless in number as well as in duration, are the inevitable consequences. There is only one way to escape the consequences and that is to escape from the cause, which is sin.
That was the way man could not find, try as he would. Man could not even guess the way out. During all this period of darkness one ray of hope led him on. The hope of a deliverer; the hope of a Saviour strong enough to save His people from their sins; holy enough to lead man up to God.
"But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made under the law, made of a woman under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." The angelic messenger announced the news for which a weary world had waited. "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you."
What would be the sign? A mighty and a terrible God, come with thunderings and lightning? A high and mighty King scattering the foes of the Chosen People; putting the armies of the aliens to flight, and restoring the glories of an ancient Kingdom?
"This shall be a sign unto you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger." A sleeping world slept on in the full midnight splendor of the mystery of the Incarnation. Slept on and heard not a sound of "a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." The Saviour had come. "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not."
No one except God could have come in that way. No one except God could have lived the hidden life of Nazareth. No one except God could have conquered the devil in the impenetrable solitude of a desert. No one except God could have served the world with infinite compassion and invincible humility. No one except God could have endured contradiction, condemnation and cruelty, and answered never a word.
No one except God could have endured crucifixion in such a manner as to transform an instrument of torture into a symbol of victory. No one except God could have risen from the dead and ascended into heaven. No one except God could have built a church and promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. No one except God could have given all power in heaven and earth to frail men to continue his ministry, promising to be with them always, even unto the end of the world. No one except God could have used water to be the matter of a Sacrament of regeneration and bread and wine to be the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.
No one except God could have moved angels to exult; shepherds to worship, and wisp men to bring gifts.
No one except God could have reigned from a Manger, and ruled from a Cross.
Truly God's thoughts are not mans' thoughts, neither are mans' ways God's ways.
Affectionately in Our Lord,