From Love Came Down
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)
There is one group which no one who thinks of Christmas Day forgets: “There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” How familiar and how full of rich association these old words have grown! Try to think what their story must mean, what contribution it makes to the symphony of meaning in which all these attendants on the birth of Christ unite. Remember what is told us. They heard a song of angels, a voice from Heaven telling them that a Savior was born in Bethlehem, and that glory had come to God and peace had come to Earth. Then they can only say to one another, “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this strange thing.” Then they come and find Christ, and then they go abroad to tell others about him. That is all. There is a certain dumb, blind movement about all they do, yet with a certain simple, eager straightforwardness about it. They sing no psalm like Mary. They do not follow the star nor go to Herod like the wise men. They simply hear a voice from Heaven telling them that there is a Savior and where he is, and they say, “Let us go there.” And they do go there and they do find him.
I am sure that I need not tell you what an eternal element in Christian life they represent. Always there will be those who will be exalted with the thought of the incarnation, upon all whose life and occupations it will cast a glorifying light. Always there will be those who out of much unrest and anarchy will seem to come into a rich and conscious peace as they submit themselves to Christ’s kingship. But such experiences will always seem too subtle for some souls. Always there will be many whose whole experience will be merely this: that, hungry, needy, empty, wanting a Savior, they just heard a voice form Heaven telling them that the Savior whom they needed had come, and they just went to him and found him all they wanted, and then, like the poor shepherds, “made known abroad” to others all that had come to them. No doubt in their experiences, simple as they seem, the whole richness of those others will really be included. But to the multitude of human souls Christ will be simply the Satisfier revealed from Heaven, and they will turn to him almost as a creature shut up in the dark turns without thought, without plan or anticipation, to any corner of its darkness where a bright light suddenly shines.
Are there not moments in the Christian life of all of us when this alone is all our Christianity? We are told this and that about Jesus, this and that subtle thought about the mystery of his nature, this and that profound theory of the work by which he makes himself our redeeming King. We do not doubt and we do not deny. It is as if, when we were turning with full heart aching or sympathy to find our dearest friend, someone should stop us and tell us deep things about the philosophy of friendship. We do not doubt and we do not deny. It may be true. No doubt it is true. But all is overswept and drowned for the time by a blind, eager, passionate longing of the hearts that need Christ to get to them. People tell us why we need him. We cannot listen, but our heart is full of one consciousness: that we do need him. Our lips can shape only one question: “Where shall we find him?” Our wills are all absorbed in one strong resolution: “Let us go now to him.”
It is good for us to think as richly and deeply of Christ as we can. It is good for us to analyze in patient meditation all that he is to us and all that we can be toward him. But oh, let us beware lest any subtlety of thought or depth of meditation ever deadens or dulls in us that first great, deep longing of the soul for him who is its only Savior. In deepest grief, in uttermost perplexity, often in great and overwhelming joy, always in conscious sin, that yearning, that unquestioning and passionate desire, asserts itself. It is as instinctive as the movement of the hurt child to its mother, or of the parched beast to the river. Always at the bottom of such strong experience what is stirred really is the sense of sin, and that none but the Jesus sent to take away our sins really can relieve. By his forgiveness, by himself given to us, he does forgive it, and then, while others call the wondrous Lord by partial names that utter some one side of his wondrousness, to us he has but one name – Savior. He is that and that alone, and all besides only as it is wrapped up in that.
It is a day of joy and charity. May God make you very rich in both by giving you abundantly the glory of the incarnation, the peace of Christ’s kindship, and the grace of Christ’s salvation.