Blessed be that Child
A homily for the Feast of the Nativity by Ephraim the Syrian (306-373CE)
Paraphrased from his second Christmas hymn by Nathan Nettleton, 24 December 2004
I am indebted tonight to Ephraim the Syrian, who preached the original version of this sermon during his time as teacher in the Church in Mesopotamia in the fourth century.
Blessed be that Child,
the child who gladdened Bethlehem today!
Blessed be the Baby
who made humanity young again today!
Blessed be the Fruitful One
who lowered Himself to our famished state!
Blessed be the Good One
who made us suddenly rich when we had nothing
and supplied our needs!
Blessed be the One whose mercy and tenderness
moved Him to come to us in our brokenness!
Praise to the Fountain
that was sent to Make us clean
and shower mercy upon us.
Praise be to the One who rebuked dreaded diseases
and they cleared off;
the One whom the fever saw, and fled!
Praise to the Merciful One,
who saw what we were struggling under and took our place!
Glory to your coming, O Christ,
which gave life to us, the children of the earth!
Glory to God
who came among us in his first-born!
Glory to the Silence
that speaks with his voice.
Glory to the Spirit on high
who was pleased to have a body,
so that in a body his virtue might be felt,
and he might by that body
show mercy to the bodies of all his people!
Glory to the Hidden One
whose Son was brought out into the open for all to see!
Glory to the Living One
whose Son was put to death!
Glory to the Great One,
whose Son lowered himself and was like a nobody!
Glory to the Power
who restrained His greatness to bodily proportions,
and his unseen nature to a human shape!
With eye and mind we have seen Him,
indeed with both of them.
Glory to the Hidden One,
who cannot be touched by even the most brilliant scientific investigation,
but who generously allows himself
to be touched by ordinary human hands.
The Divine Nature that could not be touched,
in Christ had its hands bound and tied
and its feet pierced and hung up.
He willingly embodied the divine mercy
for those who showed no mercy to his body.
Blessed be the One whom our free will crucified,
because he let it:
blessed be the One whom the cross did bear,
because He allowed it.
Blessed be the One whom the grave enclosed,
the grave which can therefore no longer forever entomb anyone.
Blessed be the One
whose own will brought Him to the Womb and to Birth,
to cradling arms and to childhood growth.
Blessed be the One who underwent such change
in order to purchase life for human beings.
Blessed is the One who sealed our soul,
who placed a ring on the finger of our soul
and became the partner of our soul in marriage.
Blessed is the One who made our body a sacred dwelling place
for his unseen nature.
Blessed is the One who used our tongues
to interpret the secret mysteries of the universe.
Let us praise the Voice
whose glory is hymned in our music,
who supreme goodness is sung with our instruments.
Glory to the child of the Good One,
who the children of the evil one rejected!
Glory to the child of the Just One,
who the children of injustice crucified!
Glory to the One who freed us,
and was imprisoned for us all!
Glory to the One who gave the guarantee,
and made good on it too!
Glory to the Beautiful One,
who remade us in his own image!
Glory to the One who sowed his light in the darkness,
and was treated shamefully while unrecognised among us,
and yet still kept his true identity a secret.
Glory be to Christ on high,
who mixes his seasoning into our minds
and his leaven into our souls.
His Body became Bread
to give life to our deadness.
Praise to the Rich One,
who paid off our debts, though they had nothing to do with him;
the One to whom we owe everything,
but who treats us as though he was indebted to us!
With his own ball and chain
he broke from us the chains by which we were being led into slavery.
Glory to the Judge who was judged
and who yet appoints his followers to sit in judgment on the nations,
and appoints the simple to pass sentence on the intellectual elite!
Glory to the One who could never be measured by us!
Our heart is too small to comprehend him,
and our mind is too feeble.
The riches of his Wisdom
makes the best we can do look foolish and insignificant.
Glory to the One who laid aside his infinite knowledge
and sat at the feet of teachers to hear and learn that which he knew
and who by his questions revealed the treasure of divine grace!
Let us adore the One who enlightened our mind
with the knowledge of his truth,
and who found in our listening
a pathway for his words.
Let us praise the One
who grafted his fruit into our tree.
Let us give thanks to God who sent his heir
so that the heir might draw us to Godself,
yes, and make us heirs with Him!
Thanks to that Good One,
from whom all goodness comes!
Blessed be the One who did not punish us,
because he was good!
Blessed be the One who did not shun us,
because he was true to himself!
Blessed be the One who was both silent and reprimanded us;
that he might give us life with both!
His silence strips us bare and terrifies us
and yet even his most severe reprimand is full of tenderness,
as both traitor and thief have found.
Glory to the hidden gardener of our intellects!
He has planted his seed in our ground,
and made our mind a rich garden.
He has harvested a bumper crop
and stored it in the treasury of our souls!
Let us adore the One who sat down and took rest;
and walked in the way and opened the gate
so that all might find their way into the kingdom.
Blessed be the Shepherd
who became a Lamb to reconcile us!
Blessed be the Branch
who became the Cup of our Redemption!
Blessed also be the Grapes,
squeezed out as the medicine of life!
Blessed also be the one who plows,
who became Wheat, that He might be sown;
and a crop that He might be cut!
Blessed be the Architect
who became a safe building to shelter us.
Blessed be the One who so awakened wonder and love in us
that we can sing songs unknown even to the angels!
Glory to the One who saw how ready we were
to become like animals in our brutality and our greed;
the One who came down and was one of us,
so that we might be lifted up, fit for heaven!
Glory be to be the One who could get on fine without our praises;
yet felt the need to be kind to us,
and thirsts with love for us,
and asks us for our love,
and longs to give love to us.
Let us praise the One who was born homeless and on the run,
that he might take away the curse of poverty and fear!
Praise to the One who got the job done
and from his wounds gave us life!
Let us praise the One
who brought mercy and peace to birth by his birth.
Praise to the One
who put death to death by His dying!
Glory be to God
who cured weak humanness!
Glory be to God who was baptised
and drowned our guilt in the deep,
and suffocated the one who was suffocating us!
Blessed be the Divine Surgeon
who came down and amputated without pain,
and healed wounds with a medicine that was not harsh.
Gods own Son became a Medicine
that mercifully restored sinners to health.
Blessed be the One who dwelt in the womb,
and who made it a perfect Temple, that he might dwell in it,
a Throne that he might reign from it,
a robe that he might be decked out in it.
Blessed be the One
whom our mouth can never sufficiently praise,
because his gift is too great to be summed up
in even the most skilful words.
Neither can our hearts adequately praise Gods goodness,
for no matter how much love and passion we muster, it is too little.
And since it is useless to be silent and to constrain ourselves,
may our feebleness excuse what praise we can sing.
How gracious the One who never demands
more than our strength can give!
We would rightly stand condemned
if we did not give whatever we could
and refused to offer the praise we owe!
O God, you are the Ocean of glory
who does not need to have your glory sung,
but in your goodness accept this drop of praise
since it is by your Gift, made flesh among us this night,
that you have supplied our tongues with a means of glorifying you.