In the Ecclesia Anglicana before she began to use English (as the Church of England)in 1549, there were Three Latin Collects for Christmas Day. The Missal of Sarum (Salisbury) in use up to 1549 made provision for three Masses for this high festival – one at cockcrow, one at the break of dawn, and one in full daylight. (No midnight Mass then!)
At the Mass at cockcrow the Collect prayed (in traditional translation):
O God, who madest this most sacred night to shine with the brightness of the true Light; Grant, we beseech thee, that we, 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 liveth and reigneth one God, world without end. Amen.
This recalls Jesus as the Light of the world especially as he is so presented in the Prologue and Text of the Gospel according to St. John.
At the Mass at dawn the Collect prayed:
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, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.
This also specifically recalls the Prologue of the Gospel according to St. John.
At the Mass in the full light of day the Collect prayed:
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 Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.
Here the Incarnation of the Son of God, born from Mary his virgin mother, is seen as the basis for the salvation offered to us through the same Jesus Christ.
In the provision for the new Book of the Common Prayer (1549), the reformed Church of England provided only one Collect along with the Epistle and Gospel set for the third Mass in the Latin Church. However this Collect was a new creation from the hand of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer.
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 Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
In this Collect we have a most beautiful combination of sound doctrine and of inspired petition.
The Son of God was the Second Person of the Holy Trinity before he took to himself human nature in the womb of the Virgin Mary. At the Annunciation and Conception, Mary conceived Jesus miraculously by the presence of the Holy Ghost; at the same time the Son of God who had eternally his divine nature acquired the beginnings of a human nature, so he became One Person made known in two natures, divine and human.
As the Son of God was born according to his human nature from Mary, Blessed Virgin, so each of us is to be born of the Holy Ghost into the kingdom of God and thereby made into the adopted children of God, through the love of the Father and the grace of the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
And as the Son of God in his human nature lived as Jesus of Nazareth, fulfilling the vocation of the Messiah and Suffering Servant of God, so we are to fulfill the vocation of the children of God called unto holiness and service in the kingdom and church of God our Father.
Christmas is a time for rejoicing with the heavenly host that the Son of God has become man for us and our salvation. It is also a time to see and accept what is the vocation of the regenerate children of God and by the help of the Holy Ghost fulfill the same.
A BLESSED AND JOYFUL TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS!
Peter Toon December 20, 2006 (just returned from South America to the after-effects on a major storm in Washington State, USA, where electricity is still out for many in Seattle area—ours came on yesterday— and where many trees are down).