Advent: Day 26, Christmas Eve
“O Come All Ye Faithful”
(Isaiah 55:1-11, John 1:1-18)
I have kept a special and very popular carol to the end because it’s essential message articulates the only appropriate response to the Christmas story: “O come let us adore him.” This exhortation does not come out of nowhere, the carol first entreats us to “Come and behold him.” Come and look at this baby. Here is a baby unlike any other. He is the “king of angels.” In fact, he is “True God of True God, Light of light eternal,” or as another translation puts it: “God of God, Light of Light.” This is who we are looking at.
The carol was originally written in Latin, and although there is some dispute, we will go with the general opinion that it was composed by John Francis Wade (1711 – 1786) and translated by Frederick Oakley (1802 – 1880). Wade was an English Catholic living in France to avoid persecution. Oakley was an Anglican priest who eventually turned to Rome himself. The carol hints at none of this but focuses squarely and exclusively on the child.
The emphasis is not only or primarily on the fact that he is God, although the carol makes that quite clear. What is most striking is that this baby God “abhors not the virgin’s womb.” He would go from glory to a virgin’s womb. The “Word of the Father,” is “now in flesh appearing.” Here is the heart of the wonder. God became flesh and “dwelt among us” (John 1:14). If this is even remotely possible, it is so remarkable that everyone should at least “come and behold him.”
Look at this fully human, entirely dependent and completely vulnerable baby and realize – this is God! The one who made everything we see, and everything beyond what we can see, is now one of us. The one who is Life (John 1:4, 14:6), the one who sustains all things (Col 1:17, 1 Cor 8:6), the one who calls stars by name (Ps 147:4, Isa 40:26) is now lying in a manger because there was no room for him at the inn. “Come, all ye faithful,” come “joyful and triumphant.” Be joyful because rescue is at hand. Be triumphant because the overpowering weight of sin is lifted, the impossible path of righteousness is open. The faithful who have waited so long are now vindicated because their saviour king has come.
“Yea, Lord, we greet thee, | born this happy morning, | Jesus, to thee be all glory giv’n.” In fact, not only human beings should celebrate this remarkable display of sacrifice from the Lord of all. “Sing, choirs of angels, | sing in exultation, | sing, all ye citizens of heav’n above:” What else can all creatures do? What other response makes sense? The one who sits on the throne above the cherubim and seraphim (Ps 99:1, Isa 6:2) and to whom winged living creatures cry day and night “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come” (Rev 4:8), is now lying helpless in swaddling cloths. He is not in a palace. He is not in an auspicious city. He does not have elite or noble parents. He has given up even the vestiges of human honour. And his sacrifice will go so much further once he grows up. “O, Come let us adore him!”
There is nothing more that can be said or done!
In His grace
Icon: The Nativity of Jesus Christ