The BCP

Christmas Day & The Sunday after Christmas

 

Author: The Revd Dr Peter Toon

Collect

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.

Collect Commentary

The Missal of Sarum (the Communion Office of the Church of England before the Reformation) provided for three Masses for Christmas Day and thus also provided three Collects. The Book of Common Prayer (1549 -1662) only provided for one Order for Holy Communion and thus one collect (printed above). However, in more recent editions of the BCP a second set of readings with a collect have been provided (e.g. in the American BCP, 1928).

We shall only examine the Collect in the BCP 1662 which is used daily until the eve of January 1st; but, in an appendix the other Collects will be printed.

The Collect is addressed to the Almighty Father, as in the Creed --- I believe in one God, the Father Almighty.

In addressing the Father, and in his holy presence, we remind ourselves with due reverence and awe, of the supremely important Event that lies behind Christmas Day. That the eternal Father has given to the world, has sent into the world, his only-begotten Son, and in doing so has caused him to assume as his own, to take unto himself, our very human nature; and to achieve this by taking that human nature within the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and being born from her, both as her son and as the Incarnate Son of God. Thus the One Person of the Only-Begotten Son by making his own our human nature became One Person with two natures, one divine and one human. He is Immanuel, God with us.

On the basis of this Fact and this Truth, we are well placed in genuine humility to offer our earnest petition to the Father in the Name of this Son.

"Grant" is a verb that suggests that what we ask for only God can supply. We pray that we (who have been baptized by water and the Spirit and made God's children by being adopted into his family) may daily be renewed by his Holy Spirit. That is we need God's immediate assistance through the presence of the Holy Ghost in order to live daily as faithful children of God, disciples of Christ, who call his Father, "our Father."

We celebrate the Incarnation at a specific time ("as at this time") in the Christian Year; but, we are to live as God's born-again people every day.

The Son of God may be said to have had two "births" - an origin/birth of the Father (and beyond our understanding) in eternity, and a birth as man from the Blessed Virgin Mary in space and time. Likewise his disciples may be said to have had two births - one from their mothers and one from above (in holy Baptism with regeneration). By their second birth they are united through the Holy Ghost with the Incarnate Son and in him to the Father.

The Collect ends with a full recognition of the sovereignty of the one God as Three Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

In the Epistle we hear of the superiority by nature and office of the Incarnate Son of God to all angels and all creatures. In the Gospel we hear that the Incarnate Son is also the Incarnate Logos/Word, by whom the Father created the whole cosmos. The Word made flesh is the Light of the world and the one in whom sinners become the adopted children of God.

Appendix.

The Second Collect for Christmas Day (when there is a second celebration of HC)

O God who makest us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of thine only Son, Jesus Christ; Grant, that as we joyfully receive him for our Redeemer, so we may with sure confidence behold him when he shall come to be our Judge, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Sarum Missal -at cockcrow, dawn and mid-morning.

God, who madest this most sacred night to shine with the brightness of the true Light; Grant, we beseech thee, that, as we have known the revelations of the Light upon earth, so we may also have the fruition of his joys in heaven. Who with thee and the Holy Ghost... Amen.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, to us upon whom the new light of the Word made flesh is shed forth, that the light which shines by faith in our hearts may also shine brightly in our works. Through the same Jesus Christ... Amen.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that the new birth of thy only-begotten Son through the flesh may set free those, who are held fast by the old bondage under the yoke of sin. Through the same... Amen.

 

Epistle The Epistle: Hebrews 1.1-12

GOD, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? And again, when he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom: Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands; they shall perish, but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed; but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.

 

Gospel St John: 1.1-14

IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light. That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his Name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth.