In the five thousand one hundred and ninety-ninth year of the
creation of the world
from the time when God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth;
the two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seventh year after the flood;
the two thousand and fifteenth year from the birth of Abraham;
the one thousand five hundred and tenth year from Moses
and the going forth of the people of Israel from Egypt;
the one thousand and thirty-second year from David's being anointed king;
in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;
in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation
of the city of Rome;
the forty second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;
the whole world being at peace,
in the sixth age of the world,
the eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming,
being conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and nine months having passed since his conception,
was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary,
being made flesh.
The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.
I love this because of its insistence on placing the nativity of Our Lord in time. As He condescended to become a man, His birth is dated like all other days in this-or-that month during the history of someone else's empire. But not entirely like all other days, because this particular day is set inside the course of the ages, all flowing toward that day and taking their meaning from it. It depicts Our Lord's nativity as the culmination of everyone's "time" by using the Jewish reckoning of time, the Greek reckoning of time, and the Roman reckoning: However great the Exodus, the Olympics, or the fouding of the City, it says, this Day is greater than them all.
And it says He came because of love, His desire to "sanctify the world by his most merciful coming." Time and cosmos, all sanctified, men sanctified, by a holy reunion of God and His creation. A reunion inspired by a blazing love, not demanded by the chill bonds of duty, or the compelling obligation of a contract. Those things were given to the weak, to all of us, whose eyes are dim and who cannot trust the idea of a love so grand because we have never known such a love. We think God keeps His promises because He made them, as though a being so high and mighty would never make himself a laughing-stock among lesser creatures by breaking His word. But that's not why He keeps His promises. He keeps them because He never promises anything but Himself to begin with.
I wish I could love Him as much as He deserves. But today I can only love him a little. So I shall do that, and hope, because He sanctifies mercifully. O happy day, when the cruelty and coldness of the world is shattered and put to shame, and He reclaims what belongs to Him and has belonged to Him forever. Perhaps, seeing as He makes all things new, he will look down on this little potsherd and make it whole again for His glory's sake. Because He sanctifies mercifully. Rejoice, Emmanuel! God with us! Merry Christmas.