The Collect for Christmas Day: Almighty God, who hast given us thy only- begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as 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. Here the miraculous event of the Incarnation is succinctly presented in all its saving significance. The Saviour is the tender-loving gift of the Almighty. His omnipotent strength is not without infinite sensitivity. The Son takes up our nature to identify with us in our predicament and to salvage us from our self-wrought ruin. His becoming one of us is a merciful act of rescue and restoration and yet he could only be our Redeemer by being preserved from the taint of original sin through being “conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary”. The perfect man has come to purify polluted man and present him acceptably to the Father. This perfection is possible through our rebirth performed also by the Holy Spirit who daily renews us and sustains us in grace and righteousness as adopted children of God. We have been elevated from the depths of corruption and misery to the loftiest of privileges imaginable. We are beloved sons and daughters of the Majesty on high with royal entitlements conferred upon us by the Sovereign of the universe himself and all of this because of the mediatorial office and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the essential joy of the season. And this joy is Christ himself possessed in our hearts, and ourselves in the possession of the Father.
The Collect for St. Stephen’s Day: Grant, O Lord, that in all our sufferings here upon earth, for the testimony of thy truth, we may stedfastly look up to heaven, and by faith behold thy glory that shall be revealed; and being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our persecutors, by the example of thy first Martyr Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers to thee, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God to succour all those that suffer for thee, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen. To juxtapose this collect near to Christmas Day is a salutary reminder of the possible consequence of confessing Christ. Christmas is a time of heightened awareness of the deep issues pertaining to our ruin and redemption. It is not a season of sentimentality and self-gratification. Worldly indulgence and excess is pagan. Christmas hails the fact of our death to sin and our new life in Christ that commences and culminates in our eternal dwelling with God. The martyrdom of Stephen reminds us that Christmas peace is not peace with the world but confrontation with its wickedness and hostility toward God. Suffering here in this alien territory is intrinsic to our life in Christ and inevitable in a world so stoutly opposed to him. Christmas has revealed the glory of God in his mighty acts of compassion and deliverance, and our steadfast gaze towards heaven from which our Saviour has come, and where he now reigns, emboldens us to concentrate upon our prospect of victory over death and hold firmly to the hope of life everlasting gained through Christ. The Christian’s death is no loss or lasting disaster. It is a transition from time to eternity in the care of God. The great concern, enabled by the Spirit of God, is for the welfare of the lost who vent their malice and murderous hatred against the redeemed and thus jeopardize the wellbeing of their own souls at the judgment. Stephen was endued with such abundant grace that he could pray for his persecutors and the perpetrators of his cruel killing. Stephen is the warning not to trivialize Christmas and its repercussions for us who believe and trust in its facts.
The Collect for St. John the Evangelist’s Day: How apt to mark, so close to Christmas, the life and testimony of the one who gave witness to the Word. Whilst the other evangelists gave us the narrative of the nativity with its implicit theology, John went immediately to the heart of Christ’s advent. John, in an exceptional way, was the enlightener of the Church. His gospel, apocalypse, and letters illuminate the Saviour in every dimension of his being, assignment, accomplishment, and ascended glory. John, by the Holy Spirit, is the source of sublime information and explanation at the towering peak of the process of revelation like Isaiah his inspired prophetic predecessor. The two great seers enable us to see Christ with such clarity and in terms of such poetic beauty: Merciful Lord, we beseech thee to cast thy bright beams of light upon thy Church, that it being enlightened by the doctrine of thy blessed Apostle and Evangelist Saint John may so walk in the light of thy truth that it may at length attain to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Collect for The Innocents’ Day: Almighty God, who out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast ordained strength, and madest infants to glorify thee by their deaths: Mortify and kill all vices in us, and so strengthen us by thy grace, that by the innocency of our lives, and constancy of our faith, even unto death, we may glorify thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. There is such poignancy and profound insight in this collect. No one is immune from violence and death at any age. That is the wretched condition of this world as a result of our revolt against God. Safety has been forfeited through our severance from him. Babes are among the elect and travel through the tragedy of early death to be with the Lord. They are saved from the vices and vicissitudes of life that lie behind our sufferings who remain for a longer pilgrimage home. Violence cannot wrest life away from the believer and those little chosen ones who die as infants. Continuance in the presence of God is guaranteed by the resurrection of the Saviour who suffered for us and in our stead. The vices within us would murder our souls if God did not ward them off and deal a death blow upon them. The Incarnation brought our divine Saviour into our world to purchase and prepare us for another and the fullness of grace that we so sorely need is found in him.