This post, in addition to being a part of Rookie Anglican, is part of a series on the Collects of the Christian Year (ACNA), called “Collect Reflections.” If you’re just jumping in, make sure to check out the introductory post, “Announcing Collect Reflections.” All Collect Reflection posts can be found here.
Have you ever had a hard “Christmas landing”? I have. I think you know what I mean: the inevitable drop-off of energy and emotion that takes place at some point soon after Christmas, maybe even sometime during the day on December 25th!
Of course, as human beings, we can’t help that our energy and emotions naturally wax and wane. Also, thankfully, Anglicans (and others) get to spread out the Christmas celebrations over the course of 12 whole days, which gets us to Epiphany, then Epiphanytide…
I mean, if we really wanted to, we could party all the way until Ash Wednesday!
But that still wouldn’t mask the fact that, even though we Christians have many reasons to celebrate, we still live in a world that is rather, well, dark.
As we celebrate the Incarnation, we remember just how much it needed to take place. The birth of Jesus was accompanied by its fair share of tragedy (see the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, Matthew 2:16ff.). In this sin-stained world, we are in desperate need of God’s light.
Collect for the First Sunday of Christmas
The Collect for the First Sunday of Christmas, then, is always poignant, and not just in late December:
Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
What This Collect Teaches Us About God
True to Collect-form, this prayer opens with a declaration about who God is and what he has done. God is almighty, and he has revealed himself to us through Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God.
“Almighty” of course means “all-powerful” or “omnipotent.” And the chief ways in which God has displayed his power to us are through his works of creation (see Genesis 1-2) and redemption (see the rest of the Bible!).
These things (creation and redemption) are related: The God who created the heavens and the earth and us, his image-bearers upon the earth, was not going to let sin and death have the final word after they infected and affected the world (see Genesis 3). No, instead, he worked and is now working to restore it back to and beyond its original goodness.
This drama of divine redemption can be described in many ways, since God provides an appropriately multifaceted solution to the multifaceted problem of sin. However, the particular theme that our Collect this week focuses on is that of light.
Light can serve as a summarizing theme for God’s creating and redeeming work, from God’s creation of light and affirmation of its goodness (Genesis 1:3-4) to when God himself will be our light in the ceaseless day of the New Creation (Revelation 22:5).
Within this framework, God is the light-giver. When God becomes human at the Incarnation, he pours out his light upon us in this darkened world of sin and death, the first taste, as it were, of the unending light we will one day experience with him forever.
What This Collect Prays For
Based on God’s identity as the all-powerful giver of light, this Collect requests that God’s light — the presence of Christ in our lives — would radically change us from lovers of darkness (see John 3:19) into lovers of the light.
As Paul says in Ephesians 5:8, “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” In Philippians 2:15, he describes Christians as “children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” And in 1 Thessalonians 5:5, Paul reminds believers that “you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.”
What’s crazy is that, as this transformation happens, we become (secondary) sources of light ourselves! In fulfillment of our original vocations as God’s image-bearers, we spread God’s love and light throughout his creation.
So, as we continue to celebrate Christmastide in the midst of a darkened world, let us take heart that the light of Christ is now in our midst, even as we await the day when there will no longer be night, when we will back in the light of God’s presence forever.
To whom can you extend the light of Christ’s presence this Christmas season?
As Managing Editor, Josh is in charge of the day-to-day operations at Anglican Pastor. He is a priest in the Anglican Church in North America, serving at Church of the Savior in Wheaton, IL (Diocese of C4SO). Josh is also a Ph.D. student in theology at Wheaton College. You can follow Josh on micro.blog, or learn more at joshuapsteele.com.