Whelan, Brian, 1957-. In the Beginning, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57418 [retrieved December 31, 2022]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Iin_the_beginning_34x28_by_Brian_Whelan.jpg – photographed by Wendy Roseberry with permission from Brian Whelan.

RCL Christmas Day III
Isaiah 2:7-10, Psalm 98, Hebrews 1:1-4, Saint John 1:1-14

For my adult life, this Eucharist, with the Prologue to Saint John’s Gospel as the Gospel, has been the Eucharist of Christmas. The setting forth of the theological meaning of the birth of Jesus triumphs over the old and charming story of the Holy Family, the shepherds, and the heavenly host.

In Advent, we speak of the two advents, the two comings of Christ. The first is his coming as a Baby two thousand years ago. The second is his coming on the Day of the Lord “to judge the living and the dead.”[1] But at Christmas we speak of the three “births” of Christ.

The first birth of Christ is his eternal generation before time and creation. The eternal generation of the Son is the Father’s generation of the person of the Son by sharing with the Son the whole substance of the Godhead without division, alienation, or change, so that the Son is the express image of his Father’s person. The Gospel today conveys the eternal generation of the Son in the first sentence, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”[2] The Nicene Creed also mentions the eternal generation of the Son by describing him as “eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light.”[3]

The second birth of Christ is as the Incarnate Word, the child born to Mary, the wife of Joseph. The Incarnate Word was born, suffered, died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven where he “is seated at the right hand of the Father.”[4]

The third birth of Christ brings Christmas directly to your doorstep, to your agency, to your will, and to your choice, and similarly the third birth involves the doorstep of every human being. For the third birth of Christ is his birth in the individual human soul. The purpose of most everything in the Church is to lead you and every person to the point of inviting Christ into every human heart. “Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing.”[5]

[1] The BCP (1979), page 96.

[2] Saint John 1:1.

[3] The BCP (1979), page 358.

[4] The BCP (1979), page 96.

[5] Hymn 100, Stanza 1.