“It has sometimes been said that Anglicanism has a particular insight into the mystery of the Incarnation. Rome, it has been said, focuses on the glory of the Cross, and Orthodoxy on the mystery of the Resurrection; the Reformed Churches are transfixed by the Sovereignty of God and Pentecostals by the Coming of the Holy Ghost; but Anglicanism, in its homeliness, has found the center of its theology and spirituality in the stable at Bethlehem where the Word became flesh. These emphases (and that is all they are, for every family of true Christians embraces the whole faith) influence the way Christians of different traditions live out their faith.”– from fullhomelydivinity.org
For a long time I, like the Very Rev. Rebecca McClain before me, would say that I was a Christmas Christian rather than an Easter Christian. There is not a real difference, but rather it was a way of saying that the heart of my faith found itself in the miracle of the Incarnation rather than in the declaration of the Crucifixion.
Time changes everyone, and for a while after that I would say that I was a Kingdom Christian, seeking to live into the Reign of God and his grace on earth, rather than simply believing or knowing some objective truth, or trusting in a distant heaven.
In the reality of Christ’s whole life, told every year in our annual cycle of prayer and worship, Christmas is the inauguration of the Reign of God in his Son rather than any earthly kingdom or country. The cross and its humiliation and shame are the declaration that unlike every power of this world, the power beyond all powers is Love. In addition, the Resurrection is the reality that God’s Rule of Love revealed in Christ is the final truth, the logos of Creation. Pentecost was our adoption into the family, the sons and daughters of the King of Kings, and our empowerment to have Christ’s mind and heart.
However, having his mind and heart brings us back again to kneel beside the manger and wait in wonder. It is a wonder that God comes as a humble baby born to a simple peasant woman of noble ancestry and low birth, and to her husband, a tradesman. The Holy Family has always been made of people like us. God’s kingdom is a kingdom of the humble and the willing.
The truth of the manger is the easiest point to enter the story of Christ for many people. I think that is why so many people come to church at Advent and Christmas. “I like the little baby Jesus best” is not just the blurting self-indulgence of the race car driver from Talladega Nights, but it is the cry of wandering pilgrims wanting to enter in to the mystery of Christ. So welcome the new faces in December. Invite some new faces of your own.
As we grow in our faith, we explore and integrate larger swaths of Christ’s mystery, and we see how the parts are woven into a single whole universe of truth. Never settle for the one part. There are many legends and children’s books about how the wood of manger is connected to the wood of the cross and gets burned on the shore of a lake in Galilee when the risen Jesus cooked some fish for breakfast with his disciples.
So draw close and listen in, invite someone you love this season, and enter the Reign of Christ with us through the humble door of Advent. It is very Anglican, after all.
The Episcopal Church is the Anglican church in the United States. Our connection to our English mother church is a reminder that we do not come to Christ alone. Pray this season for our brothers and sisters around the world.
This next year we will be reading the One Year Chronological Study Bible, available in various formats. They also provide a downloadable .pdf (see below) if you would like to use your own Bible. We will be meeting to discuss the week’s readings each Sunday at 9:00 am in Rectors Hall during 2020. Make reading the Bible a part of your new year!