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Lindemann on Second Christmas Day

by revalkorn ~ December 10th, 2010

Just in case . . .

THE SECOND CHRISTMAS DAY

The Second Christmas Day is always December 26, which is also the Day of St. Stephen the Martyr. The day after Christmas is part of the Feast of the Nativity and therefore invariably observed, according to the Rubrics. This implies that St. Stephen’s Day is to be observed only by the use of the Collect immediately after the Collect of the Second Christmas Day. When Christmas Day falls on Saturday, December 26 is also the First Sunday after Christmas. Again the Second Christmas Day takes the precedence, and also the Collect of this Sunday is used after the Christmas Collect. The appointed Propers for the Second Christmas Day are the Propers for the Second Mass of Christmas in the Roman Missal.

The Introit. “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Oh, sing unto the Lord a new song, for He hath done marvelous things.”

As we enter God’s house for the continuation of our Christmas observance, the first thought that is impressed on us is that the Child of hope has been born and God has given His Son. We are not content to see only the little Child. We behold the King and give Him the highest titles — Wonderful, God, Prince of Peace, Father of the World to Come. These thoughts of Christ’s greatness are deeply impressed on our minds before we go in the company of the shepherds to greet the Child of Bethlehem.

The Collect. “Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that the new Birth of Thine only-begotten Son in the flesh may set us free, who are held in the old bondage under the yoke of sin; through the same,” etc.

The Epistle (Titus 3:4-7). There is one quality in Christ on which we dwell especially today, and this is the gentleness and amiability of our Savior and God. When we gaze at the Child of Bethlehem, the question occurs to us: Why did God feel obliged to submit to the law of nature, even to the extent of coming as a helpless child? Why could He not have come as a grown man or as an angel? The Epistle gives us the answer. “The goodness and loving-kindness of God, our Savior, appeared.” This was true of Christ’s whole life. Open any page of the Gospels at will, and you will always meet the goodness and lovableness of our Lord. He was not simply a man, but He was a lovable and an amiable man. All the more gladly we visit the Manger on this day, for there we find the most striking manifestation of the goodness and kindness of our Lord. Christmas strengthens in us the conviction that we have not a severe, harsh, unapproachable God. Rather, we have a God whom everyone may approach with confidence, provided he is a man of good will.

The goodness and loving-kindness of God our Savior appeared in this: “He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of His own mercy.” How did He mercifully save us? “By the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.” Holy Baptism is a Means of Grace, a means by which He exercises His grace, a channel through which His grace and mercy is imparted to us. By the second birth and the renewal of our nature He poured out the Holy Spirit richly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, “so that we might be justified by His grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.”

The Gradual. “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. God is the Lord, which hath showed us light. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. Alleluia! Alleluia! The Lord reigneth, He is clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed with strength, wherewith He hath girded Himself. Alleluia!”

The Introit and the Collect are the same as for the Later Service of Christmas Day. The Gradual, however, is appointed especially for this day. We sing the praises of the Child who is born to us, knowing that He is the Son whom God has given. He is marvelous in our eyes. The Child is equipped with strength to save us. He is the Lord of all.

The Proper Sentence. “Alleluia! Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad before the Lord; for He hath made known His salvation. Alleluia!”

The Gospel (St. Luke 2:15-20). Now we joyfully join the shepherds and stand with them at the Manger. Lack of understanding and appreciation is a characteristic trait of human nature. The Redeemer had been promised and awaited for thousands of years. Yet when He came, who was ready to receive Him? The whole land of the Jews slept while the miracle of Bethlehem took place. Only one little group of men was awake to the announcement of the Redeemer’s birth, the poor, simple shepherds. The angel gave them no assistance in believing the announcement, but rather tested their faith by saying: “You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” This did not fit in at all with the picture in their minds of a royal Messiah. Nevertheless they went in haste and with joy to the stable while it was still night and adored in this frail Infant the Savior of the world.

The Proper Preface. “For in the mystery of the Word made flesh, Thou hast given us a new revelation of Thy glory; that, seeing Thee in the person of Thy Son, we may be drawn to the love of those things which are not seen.”

SERMON ON THE HOLY GOSPEL

How May We Have a Perpetual Christmas?

I. When Like the Shepherds We Seek the Savior

II. When We Glorify Him in Word and Conduct

What the angel preached to the shepherds, this old and yet always new message, we heard in detail yesterday. What did they do when they heard the glad tidings? The angel’s greeting and the song of the heavenly host fully roused them from sleep. The message produced a heavenly glow in their hearts. In faith they received it and were not offended by the simplicity of the message and the plainness of the story. They said to one another: “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” There was no hesitancy, no doubt, no delay. They went with haste to the village and found the Babe. Their flock and earthly possessions they committed to God’s hands. They left all earthly things behind and sought the heavenly, for they believed. To find and have this Babe, the Savior, is to have everything. They were not disappointed. They found the Babe lying in a manger. The word was fulfilled: “Seek, and you will find.” In these shepherds we have an excellent example how we may constantly celebrate Christmas, today, tomorrow, throughout the year. The angel has declared to us also that the Babe of Bethlehem is our Lord and Savior and belongs to us. We cannot go with haste to the village of Bethlehem. We cannot see the Babe in the manger. We shall not find Him there. Yet we can seek in faith. The Christ Child is eager to be found every day and to be taken in our arms lovingly if we do not find His humble, unimpressive form offensive. We still have a Bethlehem, a house of bread, where we may seek Him and where we shall find Him whenever we look for Him in faith. It is God’s Word, the Holy Gospel, the Holy Sacraments. These are the swaddling cloths in which the Child Jesus has wrapped Himself. If we despise the means through which His grace comes, we lose His grace and treasure, we pass Him by and continue without a Savior; and then this observance of Christmas has been in vain. The angel gave the shepherds a sign that would identify the Babe. So God has given us certain unmistakable signs whereby we may know the Savior: the Word, Water connected with that Word, Bread and Wine connected with that Word. Where the Holy Gospel of forgiveness and grace is preached, where the Holy Sacraments are administered according to Christ’s institution, there is Bethlehem, the true house of bread, the Bread of life, Christ Himself. Wherever this Word is read, studied, practiced, there is unending Christmas; there the Child Jesus lives constantly in His glory; there every home and every room becomes a Bethlehem.

If this Christmas is not to remain without fruit, if we are to have a perpetual Christmas, we must constantly say to one another: “Come, let us go over to Bethlehem and visit God in His house.” Many have sought but have not found Him. Why not? They did not look for Him at the right place or in the right manner. The manger and the swaddling clothes, the lowly and humble circumstances, repelled them. They did not receive Christ in faith, but sought Him and His salvation in and by themselves, on self-chosen paths. They will never find Him. But all who seek Him like the shepherds and regard earthly things as comparatively unimportant will find Him. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” If we have Him with us every day, at work, in our calling, we can celebrate Christmas also in days of affliction, sorrow, and need. We shall have peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Our hearts and homes will be temples of God and dwellings of Christ and His angels.

II

If we have experienced the same good fortune as the shepherds, it is inevitable that we begin to speak and witness of this Savior in word and conduct. Of the shepherds we read: “When they saw it, they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this Child.” They had found their Savior. Now they must speak of Him. The joy and happiness in their hearts broke forth in words. It was true also of them: “We cannot but speak of the things we have seen and heard.” If we wish to have a perpetual Christmas, if Christmas is to remain with us, the same must be true of us. If our heart is filled with Christmas joy, there will be the same result. We shall take the Christ Child with us from the church to our homes. The story of the Savior will be told by every father to his children, by every employer to his employees.

When we find a rich treasure or experience a great joy, we find it impossible to keep silent but feel impelled to tell our friends and neighbors, as did the woman in the Gospel. The joy becomes the greater the more share in it. Surely, this holds true when the greatest treasure becomes ours, when we find the Savior. Anyone who feels no such urge to speak to others of the Savior, born for us, has not had Him born in his heart as yet. Where there is perpetual Christmas, there is the perpetual Christmas joy of witnessing.

Our witness and praise will frequently be received as was that of the shepherds. “All who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.” Some wondered and turned their backs on these childish and gullible men. Others wondered and found it strange that such a marvelous message should be brought them by such ordinary people. They wondered for a time but never got beyond the wondering stage and soon forgot. Their wonder was not the holy marveling of faith; it sprang from doubt as to the truth of the story.

But even though many should disregard our message and witness, it will not be entirely in vain. “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Our witness also will reach people who will keep our message in their hearts, ponder the things we have told them, and be saved. So we shall always feel new Christmas joy when we know that by our telling a soul has come to Christ and experienced a true Christmas.

Next we read of the shepherds: “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” Their Christmas did not end with their visit to Bethlehem. They carried away a heart full of happy certainty, divine comfort and joy, a heart so full of praise and thanksgiving that it ran over also while they were with their flock. Our observance will soon be at an end. Has anything permanent happened in our hearts? Was Christmas in vain? No, the feast may pass, but its fruit shall remain. As we leave Bethlehem and return to our ordinary tasks, we shall carry with us light for our journey and comfort for the days of affliction and sorrow.

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