AT SYDNEY'S CHURCHES
"SUNDAY TIMES" SPECIAL SERIES
NO. 54— 'THE MESSAGE OF CHRISTMAS.'
A SERMON SPECIALLY WRITTEN FOR THE 'SUNDAY TIMES' DY REV. W. I. CARR-SMITH, RECTOR, ST. JAMES', KING STREET. Fear not ; (for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.— St. Luke, ii.. 10.
THERE can be few who are unmoved by Christmas. To many, doubtless, it comes merely as a cessation from toil, and as a season of material pleasures. To some it brings more sorrow than gladness, in its memories of happier days in the past, and a sense of greater loneliness in the present, with but a dreary outlook for the future. To others, it but heightens the contrast between their poverty and misery and the joys and happiness of the many. Yet there must be faithful hearts not a few, who, beneath the innocent pleasures which ripple on the surface of the Christ- mas season, discover afresh the deep re- ligious significance of it all, and welcome it gladly as the annual Festival of God's coming to earth in human form. WHAT IT REALLY MEANS. It is a mystery of love and power, the full bearing of which men are only slowly learning to spell out as the centuries pass. The universe waited to see God, for man has always wanted some visible sign of the object of his worship. (Every heathen idol bears witness to this.) And on this
little earth, which lay as a grain of sand on the shores of creation, in a little vil- lage in far-off Judea, in the womb of a peasant maiden was conceived, that Body which was to be for ever the manifesta- tion of God to the universe, and the means of the union of God with man and man with his God. The Eternal Son was made flesh. "God sent forth His Son made of a woman." In that hour went forth the command, "Let all the angels of God worship Him." God was then seen in His world, and the first act must be worship. If this was the at- titude of the angels, much more must it be ours on whose account this great event transpired. As Dean Church says : "Who can adequately bow down and adore its graciousness, its tenderness, the Divine majesty of the love which for us surren- dered all, for ns accepted all. Let us learn for future use to take a true mea- sure of the unspeakable majesty and liv- ing goodness with which we have to deal. Let us learn its lesson of reverence." Yes,
no man will see the wonder of Christmas who does not approach it in the spirit of worship. "O, come, let us adore Him." MAN'S IDEAL. With equal eloquence and truth, Mr. Gladstone impressed its meaning when he said, 'The Incarnation brought righteous ness out of tho region of cold abstraction, clothed it in flesh and blood, opened for it the shortest and broadest way to all our sympathies, gave it the firmest command over the springs of human action, by in corporating it in a Person, and making it, as has been beautifully said, liable to love." It is thus at once the revelation of what God is, and of what He wants His children to be. It shows man what human nature is capable of when linked to the Divine, and discloses to him the true end of his being. ITS REAL VALUE. But the revelation of Christmas is not alone a subject for humble adoration and loving admiration. It touches our life in its every phase, personal, domestic, muni- cipal, national; and purifies and elevates where it touches. By this great act of His love, God shows us how completely He enters into all our life, how worthy Heconsiders its humblest details, its lowliest forms, to be the objects of His loving care. He further proves to us how, In order to cleanse and ennoble our frail,
weak nature, he will spare no pains and keep back nothing to achieve His loving purpose. "We see in the Incarnation and tho Nativity" says Church, "how God fulfils the promises He makes, and the hopes which he raises, in ways utterly unforeseen and unsuspect- ed, utterly inconceivable beforehand, ut- terly beyond the power of man to antici pate ; and further, we see exemplified in it that widely-prevailing law of His go- vernment, that in this stage of His dis- pensations with which we are acquainted — which we call 'this world' and 'this life' — that which is the greatest must stoop to begin from what is humblest, the great- est glories must pass through their hours of obscurity, the greatest strength must rise out of the poorest weakness, the greatest triumphs must have faced their outset of defeat and rebuke, the greatest goodness start unrecognised and misun- derstood."
HOW IT WORKS. It brings home to the heart of man that God cares for him. The Greek conceived a God radiant and sunny, Apollo crowned with roses. The Christian's God steals into earth a little child, and becomes 'a Man of Sorrows' crowned with thorns. He comes and says in effect, "the sorrows and trials of life I do not fully explain to you, for you have not the capacity to understand, the injustices and hardships of life can but slowly be removed ; but to show you I am not unmindful of your lot, I make myself your brother. I will share tho sorrows of the most sorrowful among you, earth's worst cruelties I will under go, and so make them finally impossible. I will take my place beside you in the awful conflict and sleep on the cold; hard earth beside you, in order that life may become better for all, for ever." So He stoops to raise us. So He brings hope and cheer to the heart of man, and "strength for better strivings." And it is a simple matter of history that Christ's coming into the wor]d has had this effect. A new tenderness for sorrow and suffering was born with Him, and our hospitals are the result ; a new reverence for womankind, since He was born of woman, and woman has taken her rightful place beside man when Christ holds sway ; a new regard for man as man, and slavery has been swept away* MISTAKES AND FAILURES. Doubtless all has not been done which might have been, but this has been be- cause man in his dulness has too often
failed to read the Christmas message aright. He has fixed his gaze on that rift ; in the clouds of the first Christmas morn and thought 'at times 'not wisely but too well' of the heaven which lies beyond, in- stead of trying to echo the angels' song on earth, and fill this lower world with its heavenly strains. " 'Tls Heaven must come, Not we must go." Men have been content to say they be lieve in Christ as their Lord without see- ing that such a faith, if it is real, must inspire each believer with a passion to be like Christ and help in the work He came to do. It does not suffice to repeat the orthodox formula with reverent atti- tude or even with rapt devotion. If I believe that Christ came to earth to re- claim it 'for God, I may not only accept this for my comfort, but I must acknow- ledge it as my duty to help reclaim it for God. I shall bestir myself, not only
to obtain temporary relief for the dis- tressed, but also to investigate and re- move, as far as I can, the causes which bring about destitution and poverty in a world which belongs to a generous Heavenly Father ; I shall recognise Christ as its "living Master and King, the enemy of wrong and selfishness, tho power of righteousness and love." Alas ! even at so joyous a festival as this a minor strain is heard as we recall our grievous sins and shortcomings, and take to our hearts afresh the power ot a Saviour's parjlon and pity, while His goodness to us nerves us 'to fresh efforts, and in our Christmas worship we find fresh inspiration for patience and for hope. OUR CHRISTMAS DUTY. At Christmas, too, wo may well give ourselves atresli to the tasks which lie close to our hands. In our own personal lives we should strive anew against the selfish ness which constantly seeks to enslave us by allowing our hearts and lives to be suffused afresh with the love of God and by manifesting it at this season in some special act of love to the children of want and woo around us. Christmas calls to us also to purity our ideals of home life. Before its hallowed teaching those foes of domestic happiness, divorce and impurity in its various forma, cower abashed ; and the selfishness and greed which degrade our national life weaken their hold. Thus it is for us each to make our contribution to the fulfilment of the Christmas song, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men in whom He is well pleased." — W.L. CARR SMITH.