A Christmas Sermon of John Chrysostom (4th century)

Behold a new and wondrous mystery. My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn. The Angels sing. The Archangels blend their voice in harmony. The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise. The Seraphim exalt His glory. All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He Who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.
Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side, the Son of justice. Ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed, He had the power, He descended, He redeemed; all things yielded in obedience to God.
This day He Who is, is Born; and He Who is, becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became He God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassability, remaining unchanged.

And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth, not bringing with Him Angels, nor Archangels, nor Thrones, nor Dominations, nor Powers, nor Principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.

Since this heavenly birth cannot be described, neither does His coming amongst us in these days permit of too curious scrutiny. Though I know that a Virgin this day gave birth, and I believe that God was begotten before all time, yet the manner of this generation I have learned to venerate in silence and I accept that this is not to be probed too curiously with wordy speech. For with God we look not for the order of nature, but rest our faith in the power of Him who works.

What shall I say to you; what shall I tell you? I behold a Mother who has brought forth; I see a Child come to this light by birth. The manner of His conception I cannot comprehend. Nature here rested, while the Will of God labored. O ineffable grace! The Only Begotten, Who is before all ages, Who cannot be touched or be perceived, Who is simple, without body, has now put on my body, that is visible and liable to corruption. For what reason? That coming amongst us he may teach us, and teaching, lead us by the hand to the things that men cannot see. For since men believe that the eyes are more trustworthy than the ears, they doubt of that which they do not see, and so He has deigned to show Himself in bodily presence, that He may remove all doubt.

Christ, finding the holy body and soul of the Virgin, builds for Himself a living temple, and as He had willed, formed there a man from the Virgin; and, putting Him on, this day came forth; unashamed of the lowliness of our nature’. For it was to Him no lowering to put on what He Himself had made. Let that handiwork be forever glorified, which became the cloak of its own Creator. For as in the first creation of flesh, man could not be made before the clay had come into His hand, so neither could this corruptible body be glorified, until it had first become the garment of its Maker.

What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of days has become an infant. He who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger. And He Who cannot be touched, who is simple, without complexity, and incorporeal, now lies subject to the hands of men. He Who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infants bands. But He has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and total humiliation the measure of His Goodness. For this He assumed my body, that I may become capable of His Word; taking my flesh, He gives me His spirit; and so He bestowing and I receiving, He prepares for me the treasure of Life. He takes my flesh, to sanctify me; He gives me His Spirit, that He may save me.

Come, then, let us observe the Feast. Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the Nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused, and spreads on every side, a heavenly way of life has been ‘in planted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and men now hold speech with angels.

Why is this? Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven; on every side all things commingle. He became Flesh. He did not become God. He was God. Wherefore He became flesh, so that He Whom heaven did not contain, a manger would this day receive. He was placed in a manger, so that He, by whom all things arc nourished, may receive an infant’s food from His Virgin Mother. So, the Father of all ages, as an infant at the breast, nestles in the virginal arms, that the Magi may more easily see Him. Since this day the Magi too have come, and made a beginning of withstanding tyranny; and the heavens give glory, as the Lord is revealed by a star.

To Him, then, Who out of confusion has wrought a clear path, to Christ, to the Father, and to the Holy Ghost, we offer all praise, now and for ever. Amen.

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A Christmas Thought By Gregory of Nazianzus (329 – 390)

Christ is born, glorify Him.

Christ from heaven, go out to meet Him.

Christ on earth, be exalted.
Sing to the Lord all the whole earth;

and that I may join both in one word, let the heavens rejoice,

and let the earth be glad, for Him who is of heaven and then of earth.

Christ in the flesh, rejoice with trembling and with joy;

with trembling because of your sins,

with joy because of your hope.

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Method of Evangelism

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’

16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’ 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. 18 But I ask: did they not hear? Of course they did:
‘Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.’

19 Again I ask: did Israel not understand? First, Moses says,
‘I will make you envious by those who are not a nation;
I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.’

20 And Isaiah boldly says,
‘I was found by those who did not seek me;
I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.’

21 But concerning Israel he says,
‘All day long I have held out my hands
to a disobedient and obstinate people.’

(Romans 10:14-21)

Firstly, a question.
What is God’s responsibility in salvation and who decides who is saved?

I will quote John Calvin here from his commentary on Romans: “I shall not engage you long in reciting and disproving the opinions of others. Let everyone have his own view; and let me be allowed to bring forward what I think.”

With that in mind, as you are probably aware, there is a question which has been debated for centuries: Who decides who is saved? Is it God’s overarching and sovereign will that decides which person will be saved? Is it God’s permissive will, which allows a person’s freedom of choice to be saved or not? As I said, it is a question been asked for centuries! Is it just a small group of people of elect: those who are saved by God and nobody can do anything about it – whether they want to be saved or not? Or is everyone eventually just going to be saved – whether they want to be or not?

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The Message of Evangelism

1 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

5 Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: ‘The person who does these things will live by them.’ 6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?”’ (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 ‘or “Who will descend into the deep?”’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? ‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 if you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’ 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ Romans 10:1-13

In this part of Romans, from chapters 1 to 11, Paul has been drawing a word picture of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel which demonstrates that God gets his hands dirty. The Gospel, the Good News from God, which tells us that God has done all He could do, in order that all of humanity could be saved. The Gospel which claims all people can be in a living and dynamic relationship with God, if they choose to be so. All without favouritism. Paul then goes on to investigate in depth about this Gospel, the nation of Israel and the Gentiles. That is where we are in Romans 10 for the next two weeks. This week we are looking at the message of salvation. The who, what, why, where and wherefore. Next week we will look at what we are to do with that message of salvation.

Paul explains in his letter to the Church in Rome, that there cannot be salvation for anybody apart from the true salvation which is borne from faith in Jesus Christ alone, through the grace of God alone. That is our Gospel message, is it not? In chapters 9 to 11, Paul is elucidating that the Jewish people weren’t saved simply because they were Jewish. By no means, no! They were to be saved by faith, calling on God through their Messiah, the man of history known as Jesus Christ. That is what Abraham, Moses and all the Prophets down through the ages had told them to look for – a Messiah who was to come. But mostly those words had fallen on deaf ears and been ignored.

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Paul's Conversion (Acts 9)

1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:1-6

The conversion of Saul (his name was changed to Paul later) is one of the most notable in the history of the Church. Certainly within the Bible itself. Indeed the conversion of Saul/Paul, was celebrated yesterday, 25 January, in parts of the Church around the world. Luke tells us the story three times. But was Paul's conversion special? Many people say "I have not had a Damascus Road experience". There were, it is true, special events on that day, which make Paul's conversion unique. However are they in any sense so special that they constitute an example for us today?

Download or listen to the mp3 to discover more, as we look together at Paul’s conversion experience.

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