The Beginning and the End
Christmas day Prayer from Anglican Book of Common Prayer
Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born of a pure virgin: Grant that we, who have been born again and made your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.
The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding. — Martin Luther
On this side of heaven, the conjoined deity and humanity of Christ is impossible for finite human minds to understand. It was too much for Jesus’s siblings and his hometown, and they knew him. It was too much for the disciples who abandoned him, even though they had been his closest companions for three years. Throughout history, people tried to comprehend the unity of the God-head made manifest in a human baby as he grew, like any other boy, into adulthood. The best scholars just admit, as Luther did, that the humanity of God is beyond our ability to understand.
Why did he come? Why was it important for the Creator of all things to take on flesh, to become one of us? Because God promised he would be our salvation. Most simply, Jesus came for us.
So, what’s next? This first Advent for our salvation and reconciliation with the Creator is part of the story, but it is not the whole story. Jesus, Himself, told the rest of the story. The prophets spoke of the Messiah coming, not as savior, but as judge and King of Glory. This second coming, for which we now prepare, will be beyond our wildest imaginings. “Who is this King of Glory? The LORD, strong and mighty…the LORD of Hosts, He is the King of glory” (Psalm 24). On that day, Jesus will descend from heaven with a blast of the shofar, and the whole world will see His glory. There will be no mistaking Him for anyone but who He is. The first coming of Jesus was for our salvation. The second will be for His justice and glory.
Now and forever, we gather in awe and wonder at the inexplicable love the Father has lavished on us. He came, wrapped His deity in our humanity so that He could fulfill the law and the prophets for us. He came as the suffering servant, the One who bore the consequences of sin for everyone, regardless of whether we choose to submit to His sacrifice on our behalf. He defeated death, returning His followers so they could see him in his fullness. He ascended to heaven, where he sat down as the King and High Priest. For us. We have reconciliation with God because of Jesus. And reconciliation becomes rejoicing when Jesus comes again to rule.
Pray Psalm 96
Sing a new song to the Lord;
let the whole earth sing to the Lord.
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
proclaim his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his wondrous works among all peoples.
For the Lord is great and is highly praised;
he is feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
bring an offering and enter his courts.
Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness;
let the whole earth tremble before him.
Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.
The world is firmly established; it cannot be shaken.
He judges the peoples fairly.”
Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and all that fills it resound.
Let the fields and everything in them celebrate.
Then all the trees of the forest will shout for joy
before the Lord, for he is coming —
for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness
and the peoples with his faithfulness.