St. Ignatius NYC Logo

Saint Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church

An Episcopal Church in the Anglo-Catholic Tradition Where All Are Welcome

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day
25 December 2008

A Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Dr Andrew C. Blume

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.

Isaiah 52:7-10
Psalm 98
Hebrews 1:1-12
John 1:1-14

Last night when I was kneeling before the Creche at the beginning of the 5:30 Mass and I had just put the figure of the infant in his place in the manger, I was overcome with a real sense of the mystery and joy of the Incarnation. I am not sure what it was. We were all there, the altar party, the congregation, including about a dozen little children. We were all kneeling and looking to the manger, to the Holy Family surrounded by the shepherds and animals. In that instant, I looked on that scene before me and I imagined myself as one of those shepherds welcomed to the scene by Mary and Joseph. I imagined myself there in that moment, and I was overcome with the sense that God had acted and sent us the anointed one, the holy one, who would enact the reconciliation of God and creation. I was overcome with the sense that God had acted in one so new, one so small, one so vulnerable. I felt that we were all in the presence of something wonderful.

And indeed this is the power of images. Images, sculpture (if I can be so bold as to call our humble Creche sculpture) can put us into relationship with that which is normally beyond our immediate grasp, something from the past, some event or reality or story and forge a connection across the boundaries of time and space. In that moment I was there at the Manger over two thousand years ago in a far away corner of the Roman Empire. And in that moment, I looked across the scene and noticed a dog slinking down the steps to be with the family. No one else on the scene—Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the ox and the ass—seemed to take any notice of him, as he was quietly padding in. That dog, an outcast himself, a cur, a creature that in Semitic society had no place at the hearth, found himself also drawn to the manger, drawn to the babe, drawn to this amazing event.

The presence of that dog symbolised for me in that instant the reality that the mystery of the Incarnation draws to itself all those who have no other place in society. He reminded me that the mystery of the Incarnation draws to itself all those on the margins of society and gives them a place around the manger, a place at the table, a place in the community. He reminded me how all are welcome and all are included.

The mystery of the Incarnation about which I spoke last night draws everyone, from all races and tongues and peoples to worship at the bedside of a newborn child who is none other than God Incarnate, the Word made flesh, the Word made flesh that is God’s very essence and being. This child is none other than God made Man, Emmanuel, and we are called to know and trust that “in him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Come, let us adore him!

Andrew C. Blume+
New York City
Christmas Eve, 24 December 2008

©2008 Andrew Charles Blume