Collect Reflections: Christmas Day
“Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born [this day] of a pure virgin: Grant that we, who have been born again and made your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.”
“It is winter in Narnia,” said Mr. Tumnus, “and has been for ever so long…. always winter, but never Christmas.” - C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
These words of Lewis capture what it would feel like for the Advent season to be unending. They give voice to what Israel might have felt during the exile as they lived in a forgien land for nearly 50 years, waiting to return home. Even after their return to the land from exile, the prophetic promises of a Messiah, a renewed priesthood and glorious Temple, and a New Covenant would in reality be a long time coming. The period from Malachi’s prophetic ministry until Christ’s first coming is over 400 years. Now that is a long Advent.
But, of course, Advent is meant to prepare us for something we eventually reach, not be a perpetual pitstop. To take up Lewis’ metaphor, the good news is that the winter of Advent has indeed given way to the glories of Christmas. Christ has come! The eternally begotten Son of the Father took on a human nature, lived a perfect life, died an atoning death, was raised for our salvation, ascended into heaven, reigns at this very moment, and will one day come again in glory! And because of his birth, we can be born again. Because he lived his life as the perfect Son in our place, we can become children of God by adoption and grace.
Our Collect does a good job of balancing the once-for-all aspect of Jesus’ work with the ongoing aspect. We are made God’s children once for all time, never having to fear that God will revoke our adoption and kick us out of his family. And, at the same time, we continue to experience new depths and dimensions of our walk with God as we are “daily...renewed by your Holy Spirit.” We need the Spirit day by day, hour by hour, “more and more” (as our Confirmation service reminds us). This is part of the reason the Church calendar will eventually circle back around to Advent: every season of the church year and of the Christian life offers more depth to be discovered in returning again and again to God’s work in Christ by the Spirit. There is always more to learn during the laborious waiting of Advent. But for right now, the long wait is over: Christmastide is here!
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14)