Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 1938.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
On this Fourth Sunday in Advent we pray, "Come among us and with great might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness, we are sore let and hindred in running the race that is set before us, Thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us; through the satisfaction of Thy Son, Our Lord."
Only God's grace and mercy can help and deliver us from our sins and wickedness. "Raise up, we pray Thee, Thy power, and come among us," is the last cry of mankind. The response of the Angel is the reassurance. "I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people—a Saviour, Which is Christ the Lord."
The Magnificat explains why Christians rejoice at Christmas. "My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour." So the Church prepares us for Christmas.
The Eve of Christmas should be a silent night, a holy night. It is a night for Sacramental and devotional preparation for Holy Communion. It is a night for family loyalties. For every one it is a night of memories—and anticipations of Altars of joy and gladness. "Rejoice," we read in the Epistle, but note—"Rejoice in the Lord." He is the centre of Christmas devotion. There can be no Christmas without Him. The Christmas Communion is the great event of the day.
In preparation for the Festival we should refresh our minds with thoughts of Him whom we adore on Christmas Day. Before Our Lord became man He was God. When He became man He did not cease to be God. He is the only-begotten Son of God; Begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God; Begotten not made; Being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made.
We shall, in the devotions of the Christian Year, follow the steps of Our Lord's incarnate life. We shall contemplate Him during the coming Christmas Season, as an infant in Bethlehem. We shall often address our devotions to Him as the Shepherds did. We shall offer Him gifts as the Wise Men did. The Holy Child will arouse in us tender devotion. But when we realize that the Child is God Almighty who for us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven, then our devotion will rise to its highest expression, we shall pay our homage to Divine Love.
Jesus Christ is truly God. Jesus Christ is perfectly man. In Jesus Christ are two distinct natures, Divine and human. Jesus Christ is one Person. Remembering this we are prepared for the revelations of the supernatural on Christmas Day.
"He was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man." The Virgin Birth on earth of Him who came down from Heaven is what we would expect and what we find. From the Manger on to the Mount of the Ascension, the gates of Heaven are opened wide to man below. Miracle follows miracle.
We are caught up and kept in the supernatural world revealed by the Holy Child, and enclosing us to this day in the sacred mysteries of redemption. God's gift of the miracle of redemption is the gift renewed each Christmas Day. We cannot redeem ourselves. We cannot regenerate ourselves. We cannot absolve ourselves. We cannot make ourselves strong. We cannot transform ourselves. We have no power in ourselves to do these things. Nature cannot help us. The world cannot rescue us, nor restore us.
But God who created us has pitied our weakness; loved us in spite of our wilfulness, and has asserted the sovereignty of His Divine Compassion, and has come down to our world, to dwell among us, to lay down His life for us, to save us, to restore us to everlasting life. This is the mystery of redemption. Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
Affectionately in Our Lord,