Lancelot Andrewes Christmas Day 1622

SERMONS OF THE NATIVITY. PREACHED UPON CHRISTMAS-DAY, 1622. Preached before King James, at Whitehall, on Wednesday, the Twenty-fifth of December, A.D. MDCXXII.

St. Matthew ii:1-2
Behold there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is He That is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the East, and are come to worship Him.

There be in these two verses two principal points; 1. The persons that arrived at Jerusalem, 2. and their errand. The errand is to worship Him. Their errand [is] our errand.  The main heads of their errands are 1. We have seen, the occasion; 2. and We have come to worship, the end of their coming. But I will take another course, to set forth these points:

[1] Their faith first: faith in that they never ask ‘Whether He be,’ but ‘Where He is born;’ for that born He is, that they stedfastly believe.

[2] Then their confessing of it; they were no sooner come, but they tell it out; confess Him and His birth to be the cause of their coming.

[3] [Then] the steps of their faith, their coming on such a journey, at such a time, with such speed.

[4] Fourthly, their diligent enquiring Him out.

[5] Last, when they had found Him, the end of their seeing, coming, seeking; to worship Him. Worship with Him with their bodies, worship Him with their goods; their worship and ours; the true worship of Christ.

The text is a ‘star’: Heaven and earth hold a correspondence. St. Peter calls faith ‘the day-star rising in our hearts (2 Pet 119)’ – we have now got us a star on earth for that in Heaven. Christ Himself [is] St. John's star, ‘The generation and root of David, the bright morning star, Christ’ (Rev 2216). Christ is ‘the bright morning star’ of that day which will have no night; the blessed vision of which day is the consummation of our hope and happiness for ever.  Of these three stars the first is gone (Mt 2), the third yet to come (Rev 22), the second only present (2 Pet 1). We to look to that, it must do us all good, and bring us to the third.

St. Luke calleth faith the ‘door’; at this door let us enter. They that ask ‘where hath he been born?’ take for granted that born He is. Herein is the third article of the Christian Creed.  And what they believe they of Him? Out of their own words here; 1. first that born He is and so Man He is, His human nature. 2. And as His nature, so His office in ‘he is born King’. They believe that too. 3. But ‘Of the Jews’ may seem to be a bar; for then, what have they to do with ‘the King of the Jews?’ They be Gentiles, no relation to Him at all; what do they seeking or worshipping Him? But weigh it well, and it is no bar. For this they seem to believe: He is ‘the King of the Jews,’ as ‘the Gentiles [are] to adore Him.’ And though born in Jewry, yet Whose birth concerned them though Gentiles, though born far off in the ‘mountains of the east.’ They to have some benefit by Him and His birth, and for that to do Him worship.

They were no sooner come, but they spake of it so freely, to so many, as it came to Herod's ear and troubled him that any King of the Jews should be worshipped beside himself. So then their faith is no bosom-faith, kept to themselves without saying anything of it to anybody. No. ‘They believed, and therefore they spake’ (Ps 11610). And though they came from the East, those parts to whom and their King the Jews had long time been captives and underlings, they were not ashamed to tell, that One of the Jews' race they came to seek; and to seek Him to the end ‘to worship Him.’ So neither afraid of Herod, nor ashamed of Christ; but professed their errand, and cared not who knew it.

We have seen His star –we can well conceive that; any that will but look up, may see a star. But how could they see that it was His? Either that it belonged to any, or that He it was it belonged to. This passeth all perspective; no astronomy could shew them this. This birth was above nature. No trigon, triplicity, exaltation could bring it forth. The star should not have been His, but He the star's, if it had gone that way. Now with us there be but two [lights]; 1. Evening, 2. Morning. Evening, ‘the owl- light’ of our reason or skill, is too dim to see by. It must be as Esay calls it, the ‘morning-light,’ the light of God's law must certify them of the ‘His’ of it.

In the Law, there we find it in the twenty-fourth of Numbers. One of their own Prophets that came ‘from the mountains of the East,’ was ravished in spirit, ‘fell in a trance, had his eyes opened,’ and saw the ‘His’ many an hundred years before it rose. Saw that He should be ‘the bright morning-Star,’ and so might well have a star to represent Him. Saw ‘a sceptre in Israel,’ which is ‘King of the Jews.’ A Prophet's eye might discern this; never a Chaldean of them all could take it with his astrolabe.  Balaam's eyes were opened to see it, and he helped to open their eyes by leaving behind him this prophecy.  Both the star and the prophecy are but overflowing light.  Besides these there must be a light within the eye; else, we know, nothing will be seen. And that must come from Him, and the enlightening of His Spirit. Take this for a rule; no knowing of the star, without Him That inspired it. He sending the light of His Spirit within into their minds, they then saw clearly, this the star, now the time, He the Child who this day was born.  The light of the star in their eyes, ‘the word of prophecy’ in their ears, the beam of His Spirit in their hearts; these three made up a full ‘we have seen.’

Now to their coming.  All this while we have been at saying and seeing; now we shall come to doing, see them do somewhat upon it. For they sat not still, gazing on the star. Their seeing made them come, come a great journey. ‘Come’ is soon said, but a short word; but many a wide and weary step they made before they could come to say lo, here ‘we are come,’ and at our journey's end. We [must] consider,

1. the distance of the place they came from. It was not hard by as the shepherds—but a step to Bethlehem over the fields; this was riding many a hundred miles.
2. the way that they came, through deserts, all the way waste and desolate.
3. it was exceeding dangerous, through the midst of thieves and cut-throats.
4. Last we consider the time of their coming, the season of the year. It was no summer progress. A cold coming they had of it at this time of the year, just the worst time of the year to take a journey, and specially a long journey. The ways deep, the weather sharp, the days short, the sun farthest off, in ‘the very dead of winter.’  And these difficulties they overcame, of a wearisome, dangerous, unseasonable journey; and for all this they came. It was with them; ‘they saw,’ and ‘they came;’ no sooner saw, but they set out presently. So as upon the first appearing of the star, they knew it was Balaam's star; it called them away, they made ready straight to begin their journey.

And we, what should we have done? With them it was but ‘see,’ ‘come’; with us it would have been but ‘we will come’ at most. Come such a journey at such a time? No; put it off to the spring of the year, till the days longer, and the ways fairer, and the weather warmer, till better travelling to Christ. Our Epiphany would sure have fallen in Easter week at the soonest.  To Christ we cannot travel, but weather and way and all must be fair. If not, no journey. As indeed, all our religion is rather seeing, a contemplation, than coming, a motion, or stirring to do ought.  But when we do it, we must be allowed leisure. Ever ‘we shall come’, never ‘we are coming.’ We love to make no great haste. Why should we? Christ is no wild-cat. If it be forty days hence, ye shall be sure to find His Mother and Him; she cannot be churched till then. The truth is, we conceit Him and His birth but slenderly. Best get us a new Christmas in September.

How shall we then do? It is neither in seeking nor finding; the cause of all is in the last words, ‘to worship Him.’ That is all in all, and without it all our seeing, coming, seeking and finding is to no purpose. The Scribes they could tell, and did tell where He was, but were never the nearer for it, for they worshipped Him not.  Herod said he would come too and worship Him. None of that worship! And at His death, the other Herod, he sought Him too; but that he and his soldiers might make themselves sport with Him. Such [is] the world's worship of Him for the most part.

But to worship Him the [Magi] come, and worship Him they will. Will they so? For full little know they, in what case they shall find Him: in a stable, in a manger, in a poor and pitiful plight, more like to be abhorred than adored? Here—as poor and unlikely a birth as could be, ever to prove a King. No sight to comfort them, nor a word for which they any wit the wiser; nothing worth their travel. Well, they will take Him as they find Him, and all this notwithstanding, worship Him for all that. The Star shall make amends for the manger.

These came from the mountains in the East; and came for no other end but only this –to worship; and when they had done that, home again.  Worth the while, worth our coming, if coming we do but that, but worship and nothing else. And so I would have men account of it.  We can worship God but three ways: we have but three things to worship Him withal. 1. The soul He hath inspired; 2. the body He hath ordained us; 3. and the worldly goods He hath vouchsafed to bless us withal. We to worship Him with all, seeing there is but one reason for all.  If He hath framed that body of yours and every member of it, let Him have the honour both of head and knee, and every member else.  If all come from Him, all to return to Him. If He send all, to be worshipped with all. And this in good sooth is but, as the Apostle calleth it, ‘reasonable service.’  If all our worship be inward only, with our hearts and not our hats as some fondly imagine, we give Him but one of three; we bid Him be content with that, He get no more but inward worship. Let us see whether and what you offer. With [the body], no less than with the soul God is to be worshipped. ‘Glorify God with your bodies, for they are God's,’ saith the Apostle. ‘Honour God with your substance, for He hath blessed your store,’ saith Solomon.

Christ was made poor to make us rich, and so ‘offering gifts’ comes very fit.  There now remains nothing but to include ourselves, and bear our part with them, and with the angels, and all who this day adored Him.  The Magi were Gentiles. So are we. We are to ‘go, and do likewise.’ We cannot say ‘we have seen His star’; the star is gone long since, not now to be seen. Yet I hope for all that, ‘we come to worship.’ [Let] the same day-star be risen in our hearts that was in theirs. For then it will bring us whither it brought them, to Christ.