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Isaiah 7:10-17

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, "Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven." But Ahaz said, "I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test." And he said, "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. The Lord will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father's house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah-the king of Assyria." (ESV)
O Emmanuel
Wednesday of Advent 4
23 December 2015
Christmas Day is often thought to be a family day and there is a sense in which that is true. It is a great time to re-unite families divided by distance or rancor under the banner of the Prince of Peace. But Christmas is not a family day in the sense that it celebrates family or gives birth to family or that there would be no family without Christmas. Indeed, the view that Christmas is the biggest and best family day of the year also makes Christmas one of the most frustrating and unfulfilling days of the year. If we use the day of the Lord's incarnation as the day when we bow down at the altar of family unity and joy, then we have substituted a pitiful god for the true God. And that pitiful god always disappoints.
 
Some detail of the perfect Christmas tableaux will fall out of place, hitting a discordant note in the symphony of Christmas perfection. The turkey will be overdone. The dinner will be late. Your nephews will squabble over a coveted toy. Uncle Bertram will drink too much holiday cheer, and become less than cheerful. You will receive the less than perfect gift costing either way too much or way too little (add your own examples here...). Family is in need of redemption as much as any other human community tainted by the fall and Adam's sin. At Christmas this should be more obvious than less, unless we are tone deaf.
 
Christmas is not a "family day" but the Lord's Day. It is the Lord's Day because on this day the body of the Lord celebrates the bodily enfleshment of the Lord of Mary. We have become that body of the Lord through baptism into Him. His bodily appearance builds the body of the church, of which we are the limbs and He is the Head. To avoid the gathering of that Body on the day when that Body celebrates the bodily enfleshment that creates that Body, is unthinkable. Jesus the Head comes to create the Body of the Church. The Body gathers together to receive her Head.

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel! (LSB 357:1)

 

Leo the Great

"We should keep the day of the Lord's Nativity with no sluggish nor fleshly joy, since God's loving kindness has been made manifest through which all the riches of divine goodness are showered on us, and God's call to eternal life has been assisted not only by the profitable examples of those who went before, but also by the visible and bodily appearing of the Truth Itself. We shall each keep the Lord's Nativity worthily and thoroughly, if we remember of what Body we are members, and to what Head we are joined, lest any one as an ill-fitting joint cohere not with the rest of the sacred building.
 
"By the illumination of the Holy Spirit thoughtfully bear in mind who it was that received us into Himself, and that we have received in us. Since, as the Lord Jesus became our flesh by being born, so we also became His body by being re-born. Therefore we are both members of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit. For this reason the blessed Apostle says, 'Glorify God in your body' (1Co 6:20). For while suggesting to us the standard of His own gentleness and humility, He fills us with that power whereby He redeemed us, as the Lord Himself promises: 'Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls' (Mt 11:28-29). Let us then take the yoke of the Truth that rules us, that is not a heavy nor tedious yoke and let us imitate His humility, to whose glory we wish to be conformed. He Himself helps us and leads us to His promises, who, according to His great mercy, is powerful to blot out our sins, and to perfect His gifts in us, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns forever. Amen."

Leo the Great, Sermons on the Nativity
 
Prayer
Lord Christ, You became flesh to cleanse the body so that Your true Body might be built by baptism. Keep me from enthroning the idol of human family upon Your throne and lead me to the joy of celebrating a body made clean by Your incarnation this Christmas. Alleluia! Amen.
 
For Ralph Gustafson, who is battling cancer, that the Lord of the church would grant strength and healing
 
For Ward Menard, that he would receive strength and healing from Christ his Savior
 
For all those who are not able to be with family, because they wear the military uniform of their country, that they would have the true joy of the Word made flesh
Art: VOUET, Simon  Annunciation  (1640s)

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