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1 John 4:7-21

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
 
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
(ESV)

Truly Merry

David

29 December 2015

The Life, by coming to earth, sets right all things in heaven and earth. The tangled hedge blocking the way to life has been torn down and pushed over by the little finger of the Baby of Bethlehem. The flaming sword of death has been extinguished by being plunged into the heart of His life. His life smothered death's sizzling sword, drowning it in the water gushing forth from His fertile chest. His life is the medicine of immortality dispensed into the cup of the New Testament in His blood.
 
How easily we are distracted from the substance of this faith by peripheral issues. How quickly we may give in to sadness. As in previous years, there was a media flap about the use of the greeting "Merry Christmas" in the marketplace. Even boycotts were undertaken against retailers who forbid their clerks to say "Merry Christmas" to their customers. And while I sympathize with the goals of those who are offended by political correctness run amok, I wonder if we've missed the point of Christmas by making a fuss over two words. The question should be not merely about the two vocables: Merry Christmas. Has Christ truly been honored by us and understood by us when we have forced those four syllables back into our cultural vocabulary? The devil would love us to think that we have done our Christmas duty by boycotting some retailer or other. How sad.
 
Having a truly merry Christmas is far more than just being able to utter those syllables or punishing someone who forbids them. The words "Merry Christmas!" should burst out of us in spontaneous and joyous celebration of our holy faith in the mystery of the incarnation of Christ born of Mary. We want everyone we meet to share the same joy that we ourselves know and experience through His birth for us. That is why we greet others this way.
 
The mystery of the two natures in Christ is an unfathomable deep. That God became man is beyond all understanding. The greeting "Merry Christmas" only flutters over the surface of that deep, disturbing its surface with its breath but in that disturbance evoking all the gifts of God focused on the incarnation of Christ by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary. "Merry Christmas" calls forth from that depth of the faith the crèche in which is laid the One who was born for us, the Son of Mary, the Son of God. The eternal Word became Man. Now there is a reason for a joyous greeting, "Merry Christmas." No man can forbid it, for we understand that our life, our hope, and our joy all hang upon what gives birth to the words, "Merry Christmas!" When we know the joy, how can we be silent?

 

John Cassian
 
"Through the mystery of the Word of God joined to man, the Word, which was sent to save men, can be termed Savior. The Savior, who was born in the flesh, can through union with the Word be called the Son of God; and so through the indifferent use of either title, since God is joined to man, whatever is God and man, can be termed altogether God (1Jn 4:12). And so the same Apostle well adds the words: 'Whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.By this is love perfected with us' (1Jn 4:16-17). He tells us that he believes, and declares that he is filled with divine love, who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. But he testifies that the Word of God is the Son of God, and thus means us fully to understand that the only begotten Word of God, and Jesus Christ the Son of God are one and the same Person.
 
"But do you want to be told more fully that, though Christ according to the flesh was truly born as man of man, yet in virtue of the ineffable unity of the mystery, by which man was joined to God, there is no separation between Christ and the Word? Hear the gospel of the Lord, or rather hear the Lord Himself saying of Himself: 'This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.' (Jn 17:3). You heard above that the Word of God was sent to heal mankind. Here you are told that He who was sent is Jesus Christ. Separate this, if you can, though you see that so great is the unity of Christ and the Word, that it was not merely that Christ was united with the Word, but that in virtue of the actual unity [of Person] Christ may even be said to be the Word."

John Cassian, Seven Books on the Incarnation of the Lord, 4.5
 
Prayer
Dear Jesus, we have had a truly merry Christmas only when you are the object of the celebration. Keep us steadfast in the holy faith delivered to us by the apostles and prophets. Thank you for rescuing us from the culturally-required Christmas obligations by leading us back the manger of the church where we shall hear that there is joy to the world because You are come among us. Amen.
 
For faithful pastors who proclaim the Life that has come down from heaven incarnate of Mary, that they would be sustained in the gospel of life so that those who hear them might be saved
 
For all those who are suffering loneliness and rejection in a season of community and peace, that they would hear of the adoption of God in Christ
 
For all those who are seeking employment, that they would find work in keeping with the calling to service that the Lord Jesus has given them

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias  Nativity c. 1515

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