From LI Sermons
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)
I shall not need to tell you who this “she,” or who this “him.” The day rises with it in its wings. This day wrote it with the first ray of the morning sun upon the posts of the world. The angels sang it in their choirs, the morning stars together in their courses. The Virgin Mother, the Eternal Son. The most blessed among women, the fairest of the sons of men. The woman clothed with the sun; the sun compassed with a woman. She the gate of Heaven: he the King of Glory that came forth. She the mother of the everlasting God: he God without a mother; God blessed for evermore. Great persons as ever met upon a day.
Yet as great as the persons, and as great as the day, the lesson of them both is to be little, to think and make little of ourselves; seeing the infinite greatness in this day become so little, Eternity a child, the rays of glory wrapped in rags, Heaven crowded into the corner of a stable, and he that is everywhere in want of a room.
I may at other times have spoken great and glorious things, both of the persons and the day: but I am determined today to know nothing but Jesus Christ in rags, but Jesus Christ in a manger. And I hope I shall have your company along; your thoughts will be my thoughts, and my thoughts yours, and both Christ’s; all upon his humility and our own. This is our firstborn, which we are this day to bring forth, for it is a day of bringing forth; this we are to wrap up in our memories, this to lay up in our hearts; this the blessed mother, this the blessed babe; this the condition and place and time we find them in, the taxing time, the beast’s manger, the swaddling clothes – all this day preach to us.
What though there be no room in the inn, though the world will not entertain him? The devout soul will find a place to lay him in, though it have nothing of its own but rags, a poor ragged righteousness, yet the best it has it will lay him in, and though it have nothing but a manger, a poor straight narrow soul, not the cleanest either to lodge him in; yet such as it is, he shall command it, his lying there will cleanse it, and his righteousness piece together our rags.
What though there be no room for him in the inn? I hope there is room in our houses for him. It is Christmas time, and let us keep open house for him; let his rags be our raiment, his manger our Christmas cheer, his manger our Christmas great chamber, hall, dining room. We must dress with him and feed with him and lodge with him at this feast. He is now ready by-and-by to give himself to eat; you may see him wrapped in the swaddling clothes of his blessed sacrament; you may behold him laid upon the altar as in his manger. Do but make room for him and we shall bring him forth, if we bring only the rags of a rent and torn and broken and contrite heart, the white linen clothes of good intentions and honest affections to swathe him in, wrap him up fast, and lay him close to our souls and bosoms.
It is a day of mysteries; it is a mysterious business we are about: Christ wrapped up, Christ in the sacrament, Christ in the mystery. Let us be content to let it go, believe, admire, and adore it. It is sufficient that we know Christ’s swaddling clothes: his righteousness will keep us warmer than all our winter garments, his rags hold out more storms than our thickest clothes; let us put them on. His manger feeds us better than all the Asian delicacies, all the dainties of the world; let us feed our souls upon him. The stable is dark, but there is the light of the world to enlighten it. The smell of the beasts, our sins, are perfumed and taken away with the sweet odors of holy pardon and forgiveness. The noise of the ox and ass are stilled with the music of the Heavenly host; the noise of our sins with the promises of the gospel brought to us this day.
Let us not then think much to take him wrapped up, that is in a mystery, without examining how and which way we are to receive him. Let us be content with him in his rags, in his humblest and lowest condition; it is the way he comes to us today. Let us ourselves wrap him and lay him up in the best place we can find for him, though the best we have will be little better than a manger.