As we prepare to celebrate Christmas we must consider how Jesus’ birth acts upon us. By taking on a human nature Jesus lifted us up and made us holy. Blessed Newman begins a sermon titled “The Mystery of Godliness,” with the words of Heb. 2:11: “Both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.”
Newman writes: “As He was born, so are we born also; and since He was born, therefore we too are born. As He is the Son of God by nature, so are we sons of God by grace; and it is He who has made us such. This is what the text says; He is the “Sanctifier,” we the “sanctified.” (…) He is our brother by virtue of His incarnation, and, as the text says, “He is not ashamed to call us brethren;” and, having sanctified our nature in Himself, He communicates it to us.”
Newman begins by speaking of the divinity of Christ, God who dwells in unapproachable light. The mystery of godliness is that the eternal Son of God is “the True Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”
The One who was with God, and is the express Image of his Person, the One who created the world condescended to be born in the world but He must come into the world in a different way to other men.
Newman explains: “He took our nature upon Him, but not our sin; taking our nature in a way above nature…No one is born into the world without sin; or can rid himself of the sin of his birth except by a second birth through the Spirit. How then could the Son of God have come as a Holy Saviour, had He come as other men? How could He have atoned for our sins, who Himself had guilt? or cleansed our hearts, who was impure Himself? or raised up our heads, who was Himself the son of shame?”
Thus Jesus was born of a Virgin as announced by the prophet Isaiah, and an angel declared to Joseph that Mary his wife would conceive by the Holy Spirit. And that he should call the child to be born “Jesus” for He shall save his people from their sins.
Newman continues: “This is the great Mystery which we are now celebrating, of which mercy is the beginning, and sanctity the end: according to the Psalm, “Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” He who is all purity came to an impure race to raise them to His purity. He, the brightness of God’s glory, came in a body of flesh, which was pure and holy as Himself, “without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but holy and without blemish;” and this He did for our sake, “that we might be partakers of His holiness.”
Christ communicates his nature to us in his Person to make us partakers of divine nature. He sows in us the seeds of eternal life.
“He who is the first principle and pattern of all things, came to be the beginning and pattern of humankind, the firstborn of the whole creation. He, who is the everlasting Light, became the Light of men; He, who is the Life from eternity, became the Life of a race dead in sin; He, who is the Word of God, came to be a spiritual Word, “dwelling richly in our hearts,” an “engrafted Word, which is able to save our souls;” By doing so Jesus has raised us to be God’s adopted children.
Let us at this season approach Him with awe and love, in whom resides all perfection, and from whom we are allowed to gain it. Let us come to the Sanctifier to be sanctified. Let us come to Him to learn our duty, and to receive grace to do it.”
Finally, Newman invites us to live this season with purity and joy; to rejoice without giving in to indulgence or excess so that we may become more like Him who became a little child for us, more humble, more full of God.