Richard Sibbes on the nativity…
We must have interest in Christ. We must be ‘bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh.’ He hath married our nature, that we might be married to him. We have no benefit by his incarnation else. Now all our comfort is by this union and communion with Christ, by marrying ourselves to Christ, by strengthening our faith in this union and communion, that so we may make use of the boundless mercy of God in Christ. Therefore how should we be encouraged to come to the sacrament, to enjoy this comfort!
You have heard, beloved, of the joy of the angels, of their manner of celebrating the birth of Christ; and if the angels should leave heaven, and come down upon earth, and take upon them bodies, how would they celebrate the incarnation of Christ! You see here, ‘Glory to God on high.’ This would be the course wherein they would carry themselves to glorify God, answerable to their song. So should we do, if we will be like the blessed angels. We see how to celebrate the nativity of Christ. We need not go to fetch joy from hell to celebrate it. If the devil should be incarnate, and come to live among men, how would he celebrate the incarnation of Christ otherwise than in many places it is? If we do not love to have our portion with devils, surely we should not imitate those whose state and condition we are afraid of.
The angels saw matter enough in the thing itself to make them sing, ‘Glory to God on high, on earth peace, goodwill towards men.’ What! Hath God been so rich in love to us in Christ, so wondrous in mercy, as to take our miserable nature, not at the best, but at the worst, and to take our condition upon him? Here is matter of joy; and shall we be beholden to the devil for joy, when we should rejoice for Christ? Will not the thing itself yield matter of rejoicing? Oh base dispositions, that we should not content ourselves with homogeneal, uniform joy to the thing itself. I desire repentance, and reformation of what hath been amiss. If there be any that have been guilty in this kind, that intend to come near God in these holy mysteries, let them know, that God will be honoured of all that come near him; let them take it to heart. As Tertullian said in his time, What! shall we celebrate that which is a public matter of joy to all the church, for a public shame, in a disgraceful way?