Monday, December 28, 2009

The Post-Christmas Test

"My brethren, we are apt to think of Christ's first coming as a thing past and gone; and so, in one sense, it is. Eighteen centuries and a half have passed since His visible coming, and yet He is with us now. He came to be with His people for all time. "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." The Incarnation is a perpetuated fact; and the various relations of different souls to the Incarnate Christ which we study in the Gospels, are repeated in every generation of Christians. Peter, Thomas, Magdalen, Paul — ay, Judas too, — they are all with us: the names, the outer guise, is changed; the spiritual history is substantially the same. The conditions of the great problem of the relation of souls to Jesus Christ do not vary materially from age to age. He, our Lord, is unchangeable; and human nature, both on its bad and its better sides, is what it has been.

"Let us, then, try to reflect that the words of Simeon are still true, and that they suggest a grave question for every one of us. Christ is set for the rising and fall of many. Religion does not save us by the mere fact of our being brought into intimate contact with it. ...

"What is the case with each one of us? May we humbly hope that with the progress of time we have been more and more drawn towards the Person of our Lord? Or are we conscious of a weakened desire to live near Him and for Him; of a secret dislike of prayer and spiritual reading, which are sure to become intolerable burdens if they should cease to occasion true delight? Have we conquered enemies who once were formidable; or have we fallen back under the power of enemies who, we have flattered ourselves, were conquered once for all?

"Are our motives simpler, clearer, more uniform; or are they at best turbid and composite — a strange mixture of heavenly impulses and earthly resolves — a moral compromise at our very heart, in which the influences which come from below are steadily but surely getting the better of those which come from heaven? In short, are we falling or rising in the atmosphere of souls? ... We must sooner or later look the greatest of all our responsibilities in the face; our responsibility for having known whatever we individually have known of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That is the talent of talents for which the Great Householder will call us most strictly to account.

"Christ is set for the fall or rising of each single human being in this Cathedral; but His Will is that we all should rise. Let us not baulk His gracious purpose. Rather, while yet we may, let us cling, by faith and love and sincere repentance, to His Pierced Hands; that we may have a part in the first Resurrection, and, by His grace in the second beyond it."

— H. P. Liddon, from Results of Christ's First Coming

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