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By John William Burgeon
S. LuKE ii. 8—11. And there were in the same country Shepherds abidinff in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the Angel of the Loan came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them : and they were sore afraid. And the Angel said unto them, Fear not : for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is bom this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. When we hear an Angel from Heaven declaring good tidings of great joy which should be to all people, — the heart is straightway set on remembering how wondrous true this declaration of his has proved already : set on considering how true it will infallibly prove to the end. . . .His "Fear not" reminds us how much reason vr^ have to /ear when a message comes to guiity " ltta
THB SU DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS DAT. from God. His "Behold" rivets our gaze on his glorious person, and reminds us that no one but an Angel was worthy to bring such tidings down to Earth from Heaven. His talk of " glad tidings" reminds us that this message of his was the Gospel in a very small compass. His announcement of "great joy" is the key-note to
our present rejoicing. His declaration that it should be " to all people," is a prophetic hint of what shall be in aJl lands, — even unto the very end of the World : nay, it is the only tenure by which we hold our own actual bliss. At this season, the heart takes refuge in the past, if growing old : if young, it revels in the present; Either way, it asks for only so much of Doctrine as shall suffice to build its gratitude or its gladness on% It is a time for the solemn recollection of mercies past; recollection of the many bright occasions when the family circle was complete, no link wanting ; and Christmas was only another name for Joy. To how many does the present season bring with it nothing so much as these tender memories of the past! There may be rejoicing all around : we may be called upon to bear our part in the mirth of Christmas : but deep in how many hearts dwells /i^<? jwage of what can never be restored, — ^never
THE GRBAT JOY OF CHRISTMAS. ontil the Day in which Christ shall make up His jewels, and bring back the dead ! It must be so. It is right that so it should be. There is less of bitterness in .those tears than in any others; for they spring firom the tenderest of sources, — the images of childhood, and the memoiy of parental love, and of the dear but vanished faces which once made up our notion of earthly bliss. ay, there is no bitterness in the tears which Christmas brings. It is rather very sober joy, than sorrow, which awaits any j for after all, nothing can take away from us the memory of buried love: while to the greater part, one would fain believe that Christmas is
a season of mere rejoicing and unmixed delight. It is but reasonable at such a time to ask ourself the question. Whence it is, and why, that we make Christmas our season of rejoicing and festivity, — more even than Easter, — more than any other season of the year? And I must really beg you to ask yourselves this question ; and, if you please, to go along with me while I endeavour to reply to it myself. ow the fountain-head of the river of our bliss, is the manger at Bethlehem. Every separate stream of our rejoicing is to be traced back thither. The source and beginning oC it q\\ V^
THB SU DAY AFTER CHRI8THAS DAT. the Infant Saviour, — "wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." — And why ? 1. Because, in the fii*st place, He is the pledge of God's forgiveness and of God's love towards Man. We were before at enmity with God. We lay under a curse. The sentence of Death had passed on all our race. Behold the beginning of the undoing of the curse, the dawn of Life and of Light to a dead and a benighted world ! The Birth of Christ is in order to His Temptation, His Agony, His Death: His Descent into the unseen World, His Resurrection from the Dead, His Ascension into Heaven, His sending of the Holt Ghost. All these saving mysteries were contained in Christ's Incarnation, — somewhat
as a forest may be said to be contained in an acorn. Adid hence first it is, that Christmas is the season of our greatest joy. 2. Immediately out of this, flows our gratitude as a Church. For do but comsider what was the condition of the World till Christ was born ! On one nation only, and that the smallest, had the dew of the Divine blessing as yet descended. The Jewish people, like Gideon's fleece, were drenched with dew, while all the World was dry: but the marvel was reversed tFjben Christ was bom. It is dry to this hour
THB OBBAT JOT OF CHBISTBIAS* ' on the fleece, (alas !) but there hath been dew^ ever since on all the World beside. . . . What had we been, in this far land, but for the substance of the Angel's message to the Shepherds ? 8. And next, as individuals, we find here our personal grounds of gratitude and rejoicing : for Christ's coming into the World it was which hallowed every relationship, and blessed every age and every estate. The unmarried find in Him their pattern. The home at azareth is the ideal for evermore of a Christian household : entire love on the parents' side, — dutiful obedience and unspeakable holiness on the part of the child. Filial piety, to the last, finds its bright ideal in Him : maternal tenderness never shone out in purer colours than in the Blessed Virgin. . . . And then, do but consider how by His precepts, His example. His grace, He has guided us through life's mazy path: planted in us high principles of action and the very Divinest mo-
tives: made Marriage the holiest state of all: sanctified Affliction, and sweetened Sorrow, and beautified Poverty, and made Infancy most precious, and Old age most honourable. More than that ! That we should delight in Children, and reverence Womankind, and hold one anothet m love and honour, — is not surprising: bvxt \Sa»X».
THB SU DAY AFTER CHBISTMAS DAY. the sick and afflicted in body should be objects of our tenderest care, — and that the prisoner and the outcast should be sought out and visited, — and that the degraded and fallen should be yearned over and prayed for until they be restored ; — tits is a fruit of the Incarnation which could not have been expected : and yet a fruit, a direct fesult of the Incarnation, it is/ 4. Then lastly, consider how entirely, from the Coming of Christ in the flesh, it comes to pass that the mourner learns to dry his tears. This privilege of Christian faith and .hope was unknown to the heathen. (Words soon spoken, but O, containing how deep and unutterable a groan 1) When the chief philosopher of ancient Rome lost his beloved daughter, he sorrowed after a fashion which it harrows the heart even to read of. It was the exceeding loud and bitter cry of hopeless grief, — the very howl of a heathen man's despair. But it has never been so since. It will never be so more ! True, that the heart knoweth its own bitterness, will continue to know it until it shall cease to beat. But the
Day-star arises in the darkest season of bereavement ; and (as on summer nights), there is a token of the morning, almost before the hour ofaunset haa quite passed away.
THE GREAT JOY OF CHRISTMAS. And if the progress of decay in ourselves and the prospect of Death is not very terrible, — whence is it but because as on this Day was bom to us a "Saviour, which is Christ the Lord ?" In Him we know that we are more than conquerors. " Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me T' — with me, because I have been baptized into Thy Body ; — with me, because I have been repeatedly made a partaker of Thy most precious Body and Blood ;r-with me, because I am made a member of Thy Body, of Thy flesh, and of Thy bones ; — with me, because I do believe and know that I dwell in Thee, and Thou in me ! This is the secret then, — this the source of our Christmas joy. And that we feel it, feel it now, feel it year by year, — ^that the whole Christian Family has felt it for eighteen hundred years, and for seventeen hundred years has expressed it also by observing a Christmas festival, (though it cdUed it " Epiphany" at first,) — thi% is none other than a fulfilment of the Angel's prophetic message. " Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people'' . . . The ^o^ of Chnstmas is a contagioaa, a dififuaive muAX^t. It cannot rest in itself: it must needs see others
joyous also. It must needs impart food to the hungry and clothing to the naked, and see smiles, or try to bring them, on every face. I am sure all have done something in this way to-day. one, I am sure, need urging. Let me only, as in duty bound, remind you that a hospitable board, a bright hearth, and merriment encircling both, — are not the sum total of what the God of Angels and of Men approves on the anniversary of Christ's ativity. There is a far, far harder thing to pve than money, and that is, " forgiveness,*' — if any have been offended against : a harder thing to do than to be kind to the poor, — and that is to ask pardon, if any have offended. The offering which God loves best, — the sacrifice which He prizes most highly, and will most assuredly accept, — is the act of the peace-maker, the spirit of the meek, the temper of the humble. I will say no more. If in any household there has been unkindness, let it cease to-night ! If a grudge yet lingers in any quarter, let it be at once forgotten ! Else shall we be a jarring note in the celestial harmony, and prove ourselves unworthy partakers in the great Joy of Christmas. 1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books
2. ALL WRITI GS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000
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