Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.
You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.
Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.
He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord…
… For this reason, when our Lord was born of the Virgin, the message of the angelic voices was: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to men of good will.
Bath Abbey is one of the most historic and unusual abbey churches in England. Situated in the middle of town and right next to the best preserved Roman Baths in the world, Bath Abbey was a Benedictine monastery in the Middle Ages. The church was re-built just before Henry VIII’s revolution. The West front (which you see here) is famous for the Jacob’s Ladder carving. You can see the ladder on both corner towers with angels ascending and descending–thus a sign that this place is a “Bethel” the place where God is met.
When I lived in England, Bath was our main shopping town. It was just about twenty minutes by train, and we spent many happy days there, not least of them a day with my friend Joseph Pearce and his wife Susanna.
The Roman Baths were built on the site because at that place hot springs well up making a natural hot mineral spa. The ruins and archeological museum about the Roman baths can be visited and the medieval abbey rises up from them.
Bath Abbey is now an Anglican place of worship. The present church was built at the end of the fifteenth century–just before Henry VIII’s iconoclastic social and religious revolution. This ambitious building project–along with many others built at the time–gives the lie that the late medieval church was dead and dying. So many ambitious building projects are not the sign of a moribund church.
One of the delightful traditions of an English Christmas is the Carol Service. The traditional service of Nine Lessons and Carols was pioneered at Kings’ College Cambridge in 1918 to bring a more creative approach to Christmas Worship.
The service has now spread across the Anglican world and is a Christmas tradition for Christians of many denominations. Part of the magic and mystery is for the choir to assemble at the back of the church or cathedral in candlelight. Then out of the darkness one child sings the first verse of “Once in Royal David’s City.”
The picture is of the choir of Hereford Cathedral. One of my best memories of Anglicanism was serving as a chaplain at Kings College Cambridge Choir School for two years. It was one of my duties to mentor and chaperone the choir boys and one of the perks were six tickets each year for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.
Here is the Anglican Prayer Book Collect for Christmas Day
ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at 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.