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Three Windows

“The Dayspring from on high hath visited us.” St. Luke 1:78.

[The following is an abridgment of a sermon preached by Bishop Charles Edward Cheney. It is based on the Benedictus, the song of Zacharias, which we traditionally sing from Christmas to the eve of Easter.]

For my text is part of a song called the “Benedictus,” or “Blessed,” because its first line runs, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He hath visited and redeemed His people!” It is now two thousand years old. Before the eyes of the aged priest Zacharias the curtain of the future had been lifted. His newborn son was to be the herald of a new revelation to mankind. John Baptist was to rise as the morning star, to announce the coming of the Messiah. In Palestine there is no grey morning twilight-no flush of rosy dawn. Out of darkness, from behind the hills, the sun seems to leap into full splendour. The day ‘springs’ suddenly into light that floods the earth. Such is the picture of the work of Christ, which Zacharias saw in prophetic vision.

Look! the sun is up! The air is glowing with its light. But dwellings here are where closed blinds forbid the light to enter. So shines Christ in this world. He floods our modern life with the glory of His Truth, “I came to give my life a ransom for many.” Have you, young men and women, let that illumination in? There are three windows which I plead with you to open wide today.

I. The Window of Thought
The Lord Jesus seeks for admittance of His Light into the life and character; and the way which He seeks is always, first of all, that of the Mind. The Old Testament is full of a pressing urgency to “consider,” to “think,” to “reason,” “Oh; that my people would consider!” is God’s longing expressed by Jeremiah. Isaiah voices the Divine challenge, “Bring forth your strong reasons, saith the God of Jacob.” “Come now, and let us reason together,” saith the Lord. Yet no fact of experience is more evident than this: that when Christ, the Light of the world, seeks to shine through the window of thought, He is forthwith directed elsewhere. It is said that the way for Christ to enter is through the window of the emotional, the asthetic, the sentimental. Let me freely admit that never was there more discussion than in the twentieth century, of questions that involve Christianity directly or indirectly. We have an endless stream of articles in newspapers, reviews, and published volumes, upon Evolution, upon the so-called Higher Criticism, upon the social obligations of the Church. But when it comes to the question, “Does the average man or woman, and especially does the average young man or young woman, give the subject of his or her individual and personal relation to God intense thought, absorbing reflection, or even careful examination?”-the answer must be that never was there less of such application of the mind to the greatest problem ever proposed to an intelligent being than today.

Once more, I would like to inquire if the topics which Christ’s Gospel suggests to the mind are such as appeal to mere sentiment and imagination, or such as may well employ the highest intellectual gifts bestowed upon Mankind? Is the question whether there is a God or not, one to be wrestled with by a feeble intellect? Or the question of His Providence in the affairs of men? Or that of the soul’s future through the ages beyond the span of this life? Are Redemption and the Atonement and the New Birth of the Spirit, and a hundred other topics on which the New Testament dwells, so simple and rudimentary that they demand no special application of thought to grasp them?

Daniel Webster was not a model Christian. But he was confessedly a man of colossal intellect. When someone asked him what was the most imperative and important subject to which human thought could be devoted, he answered without a moment’s hesitation: “My personal responsibility to God.”

Oh, dear young friends, it is time for consideration, to give your best thinking to the claims of Jesus Christ. “The Dayspring from on high hath visited us.” Let His light into your life by the window of thought.

II. The Window of Revelation
The longest and best ladder ever constructed helps no man to climb to the stars. There are limits to the power of intellect, as absolute as the restriction of the tides of the sea: “Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further.” Indispensable as thinking is, it goes but a little way in Religion. The intellect is a tool which must be freely used if you are ever going to have any religion. But it is one of those imperfect tools which cannot go beyond the beginning of the work. The man was never born with mind so acute that he was able to think out a religion which could satisfy every need of his soul. When thought has climbed its highest, there is still a height it never reaches. Unless God comes to its help with a revelation of Himself, it pitifully fails in its search for a true God and soul-satisfying peace with Him. I am not here today to prove that God has stretched out such a helping hand in the Bible; you can prove it for yourself, as millions have before you. How? Just as one lost in the recesses of the Mammoth Cave, or the mazes of a Roman catacomb, would prove whether the starlike gleam in the distance is God’s sunshine! By pushing toward it, by testing its source in following it up; but never by turning his back upon it or shutting his eyes to its proffered illumination. Hear what Christ Himself says: “He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of life.”

III. The Window of Personal Trust in Christ
Let us be clear as to the central point of faith in Jesus Christ. What is it? In what relation does it stand to the thinking mind and to the revelation God makes in the Bible? To myself I seem today like the man who flags an express-train at a way station. I have flung out the red signal which calls for attention and a halt. My message was to stop and think. But I took a second step. I gave you the despatch of God’s Revelation, and asked you to ponder its instructions. Surely there is yet another step. Not for me to take. But for the young man or woman who is at once the engineer and the conductor of his or her own destiny for time and eternity. Have you trusted yourself to your orders? What can be the reason that in this congregation are men and women who have given thought to the one all-important question, who have opened the long-closed window of Revelation, and given the Bible study, yet have not peace of conscience, and live in a twilight of doubt? Because neither intellectual application nor the Bible itself are more than means to an end. That end is to find in the Bible a Saviour who died “to give remission of sins through the tender mercy of our God.” It is to step with my whole weight of sins upon this one bridge: “He died; the Just for the unjust.” The soul that lets in “the Dayspring from on high” through the window of such self-surrendering trust in Christ, has passed from darkness to light.

Parish News
The Woman’s Guild held their annual Spaghetti Dinner on Saturday, October 28, 2000. The ladies raised money for missions and other projects. Thank you to all who helped in any way.

Thank you to Sue Horosinski and all those who helped decorate the church for Advent and Christmas.

Donations for the Needy
Advent begins, Sunday December 3, 2000. Annually during Advent we place a basket in the narthex to collect non-perishable foods and paper products for the needy of our community. These donations are given to the Tinley Park Food Pantry for distribution. We ask for and appreciate your support. The basket will remain in the narthex to the end of December.

Christmas Eve Service
The candlelight service of Holy Communion will begin at 11:00 p.m., December 24th. Refreshments will be served in the Parish Hall prior to the service starting at 10:00 p.m.

Missionary of The Month

Domestic Missions
Please pray for the Rev. Canon and Mrs. Dennis Cagle and their children Ashley, Austin, and Chelsea. Atascadero, California.

Bake Sale
The Woman’s Guild will hold their annual bake sale in the Parish Hall on Sunday, December 10, 2000, after the morning service.

Happy Birthday!
Dec. 11 - Loretta Sellers
Dec. 14 - Elizabeth Horn
Dec. 16 - Barney Reagan
Dec. 20 - Leah Zoe Andricopulos

Founders Day
December 2, 1873. The founding of the Reformed Episcopal Church.

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