"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever."--ISAIAH ix. 6, 7.
It is now more than three thousand years ago that God made to Abraham the promise, "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." Again the promise was renewed to Moses when he was commanded to tell the Jews, "a prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, like unto me. Hear ye him . . ." In David's Psalms, again, this same strange person was spoken of who was already, and yet who was to come. David calls him the Son of God, the King of kings. Again, in the Prophets, in many strange and mysterious words, is this same being spoken of as a virgin's child--"Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel, God with us;" and again, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God--the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." And again, "There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,--the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And with righteousness shall He judge the poor," &c.
And again, "Thou Bethlehem, though thou be little among the princes of Judah, yet out of thee shall come forth He that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from everlasting. And He shall be great unto the ends of the earth."
But time would fail me if I tried to repeat to you half the passages wherein the old Jewish prophets foretold Him who was to come, and in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed, more and more clearly as the time drew nigh.
Well, my friends, surely you know of whom I have been speaking--of whom Moses and the prophets spoke--of Him who was born of a village maiden, laid in a manger, proclaimed of angels to the shepherds, worshipped with hymns of glory by the heavenly host on the first Christmas day eighteen hundred and seventy-eight years ago, as we count time. Aye, strange as it may seem, He is come, and in Him all the nations of the earth are blessed. He is come--the Conqueror of Evil--the desire of all nations--the Law-giver--the Lamb which was to suffer for our sins--the King of kings--the Light which should lighten the heathen--the Virgin's child, of wondrous wisdom, whose name should be God as well as man--whom all the heathens, amid strange darkness and mad confusions, had still been fearing and looking for.
He is come--He came on that first Christmas-tide. And we here on each Christmas-tide can thank God for His coming, and say before men and angels, "Unto us a child is born--the Prince of Peace is ours--to His kingdom we belong--He has borne about on Him a man's body, a man's soul and spirit--He was born like us--like us He grew--like us He rejoiced and sorrowed--tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin--able to the uttermost to understand and help all who come to God by Him. He has bruised the serpent's head--He has delivered us from the power of darkness, and brought us into His kingdom. Through His blood we have redemption and forgiveness--yes! through Him who, though He was laid in a manger, was yet the image of the unseen God. And by Him, and for Him--that Babe of Bethlehem--were all things created in heaven and earth--and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. All heaven and earth, and all the powers therein, are held together by Him. For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell; and having made peace through the blood of His cross, to reconcile by that child all things unto Himself--all things in heaven--all things in earth."
This should be our boast--this should be our glory--for this do we meet together every Christmas day.
But what is all this to us if that Blessed Man be gone away from us? Our souls want more than I have told you yet. Our souls want more than a beautiful and wonderful story about Christ. They want Christ Himself. Preaching is blessed and useful if it speaks of Christ. Our own thoughts are blessed and useful if we think of Christ. The Bible is most blessed and useful containing all things necessary to salvation, for it speaks of Christ. Our prayers are blessed and useful if in them we call and cry earnestly to Christ. But neither preaching, nor thinking, nor praying are enough. In them we think about Him and speak to Him. But we want Him to speak to us. We want not merely a man to say, your sins may be forgiven you; we want Christ Himself to say, "Your sins are forgiven you." We want not merely a wise book to tell us that the good men of old belonged to Christ's kingdom--we want Christ Himself to tell us that we belong to His kingdom. We want not merely a book that tells us that He promised always to be with us--we want Him Himself to tell us that He is really now with us. We want not merely a promise from a prophet of old that in Him all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, but a sign from Christ Himself that this nation of England is really now blest in Him. In short, we want not words, however true words, however fine words, about Christ. We want Christ Himself to forgive us our sins--to give peace and freedom to our hearts--to come to us unseen, and fill us with thoughts and longings such as our fallen nature cannot give us--such thoughts and feelings as we cannot explain in words, for they are too deep and blessed to be talked about--but thoughts which say to us, as if the blessed Jesus Himself spoke to us in the depths of our hearts, "Poor, struggling, sinful brother! thou art mine. For thee I was born--for thee I died--thee I will teach--I will guide thee and inform thee with mine eye--I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."
Well--you want Him--and you want a sign of Him--a sign of His own giving that He is among you this day--a sign of His own giving that He has taken you into His kingdom--a sign of His own giving that He died for you--that He will feed and strengthen your souls in you with His own life and His own body.
Then--there is a sign--there is the sign which has stood stedfast and sure to you--and to your fathers--and your forefathers before them--back for eighteen hundred years, over half the world. There is the bread of which He said, "Take, eat, this is my body which is broken for you." There is the wine of which He said, "This cup is the New Covenant in my blood, which is shed for you, and for many, for the forgiveness of sins." There is His sign. Don't ask how. Don't try to explain it away, and fancy that you can find fitter, and soberer, and safer, and more gospel- sounding words than Jesus Christ's own, by which to speak of His own Sacrament. But say, with the great Queen Elizabeth of old, when men tried too curiously to enquire into her opinion concerning this blessed mystery--
"Christ made the Word and spake it, He took the bread and brake it, And what His Word did make it, That I believe, and take it."
He said, "This bread is my body which was broken for you." He said, "This cup is the New Testament in my blood." Is it? or is it not? And if it is, is not Christ among us now, indeed? Is not that something better than all the preaching in the world? Jesus Christ, the King of kings--the Saviour--the Deliverer--the Lamb of God--the Everlasting Son--the Word--the Light--the Life--is here among us ready to feed our souls in the Holy Sacrament of His body and blood, as surely as that bread and wine will feed our bodies--yea--to feed our souls and bodies to everlasting life. "Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters and drink. Come, buy wine without money and without price."