Friday, January 04, 2008

The 11th Day: Great, deep longing

Today nothing from my own brain/soul but something from Phillips Brooks, one of the best preachers the Episcopal Church has ever produced. He was long-time rector of trinity Church, Boston in the 19th century and for a short while before his death, Bishop of Massachusetts. He is remembered on our calendar later this month on January 23rd.

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 an 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 [the] 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. There is 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 many whose whole experience will be merely this: that, hungry, needy, empty, wanting a Savior, they just need a voice from 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….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 our Christianity?...That we do need him. Our lips can shape only one question: “Where shall we find him?” Our wills are all absorbed in one string resolution: “Let us go now to him.”

It is good for us to think as richly and as 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.

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