ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin; Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
Hebrews i. 1.
GOD, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? And again, when he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: they shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.
St. John i. 1.
IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will or man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
(1928 Book of Common Prayer)
Christmas is supposed to be a happy, joyous season for the believer, but for many it is not. Thousands of people in my area still suffer the effects of Hurricane Harvey, lack a permanent home, have lost all their possessions, and are in financial distress. Others may suffer from unemployment, or have lost dear loved ones recently. Family problems, or marital problems rob the joy of some. Many unmarried people feel extreme loneliness, depression, and isolation.
In my own case, I lost Mrs. Anglican around two-and-one-half years ago to pneumonia. She was only 39, and we had been married only six months. Her death crushed me. Although I have come a long way in resolving my grief with God’s help, I still miss her and her loving presence. Some days, the circumstances of her death hit me hard, and I grieve. Not having her here for a joyous occasion such as Christmas only deepens the sense of loss. Yet, there is joy, for I know she is with the Lord and free from pain and illness.
So what do we do? We feel and embrace the problems and losses, we bear the grief, but we must look beyond them to find the joy that has always awaited us. God never promised us easy lives free of problems, conflict, pain, or grief. He did, however, promise to be with us through them. Emmanuel-God with us. Therein lies the joy.
The incarnation means we have a God who knows us and understands us. Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He is now our great High Priest who understands our infirmities, and intercedes with the Father on our behalf. He stands ever ready to comfort us, to guide us into repentance, and to renew our faith by the Holy Ghost. He cares for us, and we can cast all our burdens upon him, no matter how great or small. And when we shuffle off this mortal coil, he will take us unto himself to be with him forever. That is the joy beyond the pain.
The epistle and Gospel readings for today speak for themselves, and are worthy of our meditation, especially if this is a difficult season for us. Even in the most unpleasant circumstances there is a place of hope. Sometimes we merely need to be reminded of that.
May God guide us into lives filled with joy unspeakable, grace, and truth for Jesus’ sake. Merry Christmas!