From “Christmas Day,” Sermons for the Principal Festivals and Fasts of the Church Year (1895)

The first thing which human nature feels when it comes to the knowledge of the coming of Christ is the mere fact of the Incarnation, and the illumination and exaltation of all human life by and through the Incarnation. With Mary it was a feeling of personal pride and privilege. Out of all the maidens of Judah she had been chosen to be the mother of the Lord. But with those to whom the same truth comes in its larger way its narrowness is lost; it becomes comprehensive; it is a sense of the exaltation and illumination of all humanity together, and of each person only as he has a part in that humanity by the coming of God into its flesh.

As Christ grew older this first feeling must have grown only stronger with Mary. In everything ger life must have been elevated by seeing how her son could share it with her. Her humble house must have seemed glorious, her simple meal a banquet, her husband’s workshop sacred, the ordinary household thoughts not commonplace, because they were not hers alone, but his.

So it ought to be with us. The first simple, broad, pervading sentiment of Christmas Day ought to be of how sacred and high this human life is into which the Lord was born. The body and the life of man are able to take in and to utter God. Christ could be born into such flesh and such relationships, into such duties and such delights, as ours. At once a radiance streams in upon them, and they are no longer dull. Their luster shines out splendidly.

Fathers, your labors for your children is not bare duty. Children, your service of your fathers is not a weary slavery Neighbors, your daily courtesies to one another need not be empty shams. Men and women, your bodies are not base, your routines ought not to be deadening. Each is worthy of his own and of his brethren’s respect, for there has been an Incarnation. This humanity has held divinity. God has been in this flesh.

O my dear friends, if your lives are hampered and held down by any self-contempt, by any feeling that human life is low, that to be a human being is to be something narrow, dry, and barren; if any such thought is keeping you from doing broad justice to yourself and to your brethren, cast it aside on Christmas Day. Believe that Christ was born of Mary. Let your soul magnify the Lord with the same bounding and leaping sense of privilege that exalted hers. Let the Incarnation possess and fill your life.

The Rt. Rev. Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) was one of the famous and influential preachers of his age. He served as rector of Trinity Church, Boston from 1869-1891, published many volumes of sermons, and was the author of the Christmas carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Brooks became Bishop of Massachusetts in 1891. He is commemorated on January 23 on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church. The text has been slightly adapted for modern readers.