A Message for An Angel

From “Sermon delivered at Whitehall on Christmas Day (1610)

The first news that came that day, the news which makes this day so high a feast, was the birth of Christ. This news came by an angel then; no man was fit to be the messenger of it. And look, how it came then so it should come still, and none but an angel brings this news…. Yet since that day God has allowed sinful men to be the reporters of this news and the news never the worse. That good news is still good news and welcome by any, even if a foul leper brings it. The state of the messenger should not offend us, because we must ever remember that the news of Christ’s birth is a message for an angel.

This had been news for the best prince in the earth. Yet those who first heard were shepherds. That this message came to them ought not seem strange. It found none else at the time to come to; the Angel was glad to find any to tell it to, even to tell it the first he could meet. Yet the news fitted the shepherds well. It well agreed to tell shepherds of a strange lamb, such a lamb as should take away the sins of the world; such a lamb as they might send to the ruler of the world for a present. Or to tell shepherds of the birth of a shepherd, Ezekiel’s shepherd: “Behold, I will raise for you a shepherd,” the chief shepherd, the great shepherd, the good shepherd that gave His life for His flock. And so it was not unfit news for the shepherds….

Now a word only, what is to be done on our part?…He was born for us and given us… If born for us, and given us, then, for our part, we can do no less than receive him. We disgrace both the giver and the gift, if we do not accept it.

How is that? How shall we receive him? Who shall give him to us? One will say to each of us in just a short while, “Take, this is my Body, the offering whereof you are sanctified,” and, “Take, this is my Blood, by the shedding whereof you are saved.” These holy mysteries have been ordained by God both as pledges to assure us and as conduit pipes to convey into us this and all other the benefits that come by this our Savior.

Truly on Christ’s memorable feast days, of which Christmas is the first, we are bound to do something in memory, or remembrance of him. And what is that? Do this, he tells us, in remembrance of me…

Let us honor this day with our receiving that which Christ has honored by first giving. Let us give to Christ evermore, especially on this day, our unfeigned hearty thanksgiving for this good news, for this great gift, for him who was and is the gift – Our Savior, Christ the Lord, to whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, three Persons, one immortal, ever-living, invisible, only-wise God, be all honor, glory, blessing, praise, and thanksgiving, this day and for ever.

Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626) was Bishop of Chichester and Winchester, one of the most influential scholars and church leaders of his day. He was one of the principal translators of the Authorized “King James” Version of the Bible, and a widely admired preacher. He preached the 1610 Christmas Day sermon at Whitehall Palace in London before King James I. He is commemorated on September 26 on the calendar of several Anglican churches. The text has been adapted for contemporary readers.


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