For this week, please finish reading through St. Leo’s Christmas sermon 26. St. Leo’s overall theme of this sermon is having peace with God so that we may forever raise our voices with the angels who announced the Nativity to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” Luke 2:14.
III. Having Peace with God
In section three of the sermon, St. Leo begins with the understanding that the virgin birth means that Jesus was not born with the original sin of Adam’s transgression. He is the new Adam, untainted by the transgression of the old Adam, but, like the old Adam, is born sinless. Later, Leo will say that we are being re-modeled after the pattern of Christ, and it this original sinlessness that is the template into which God is molding us.
God’s means of re-modeling us is God’s peace (Eph. 2:14). For Leo, it is peace with God that brings about our adoption as the sons of God, God’s peace which nurtures our love, and God’s peace that brings about unity with one another. What does it mean to have peace? To have peace with another person is to have an equality of soul and similarity of desire with that person. To have peace with someone is to be at one with that person. To be at peace with God is to be one with God – to desire as God desires, to love what God loves, and to share in God’s dignity.
IV. Being Worthy of Our Calling
In section four, St. Leo once more exhorts us to worthy of our calling. As Jesus says, “let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Matt 5:16. St. Leo warns us to be wary of the works of the devil and his angels who either frighten us by adversity or spoil us in prosperity. But within our spiritual struggles – either those born of adversity or prosperity – remember always that the Lord is our light and defender, of whom shall we fear. Ps. 27:1
V. The Birth of Christ is the Birth of Peace
St. Leo begins the final section of his sermon with a quote from John’s Prologue: we are in Christ, are born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. John 1:13. As we celebrate Jesus’s birth, we must also remember that we too are born on God on this day. It is our birth as well. Leo emphasizes that we have peace with those of whom we are at one mind. We can be at peace with others in vice and wrong-doing but are called is to be at peace with God. The question Leo asks of us is where is our treasure? Matt 6:21. If we treasure the things of this world, then we will be dragged down to this world, but if we treasure those things in heaven, then we will be pulled upwards into heaven. For the promise is that as we ascend into God’s presence, then the Spirit will bring us into oneness with God. Of all times in the year, it is Christmas that should bring us into the peace of God.
We will start the new year with Trains, Jesus, and Murder – The Gospel according to Jonny Cash. The author, Richard Beck, is a psychology professor at Abilene Christian University. (His blog is Experimental Theology.) The book grew out of a bible study he leads at a local maximum-security prison. He began listening to Cash (Live at Folsom Prison) to understand their mutual audience. He realized the like Jesus, Cash brings us into the presence of the marginalized and forgotten people of our society – the imprisoned, the heartbroken, Native Americans, common laborers, and drug addicts. For the men that Cash sang to and about or the men that Beck leads in bible study, sin and its consequences and the promise of one-day being free are not theoretical ideas to be discussed, but an ever-present reality that is lived. An interview with Beck about his book is HERE. I hope you can read through this book with us during Epiphany 2021.
For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace. Eph. 2:14-16