A Short Homily for Christmas Day by Mark Frank (1613–1664)

A lesser known Caroline Divine is Mark Frank (1613–1664), once Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge, and later Archdeacon of St. Alban’s. His sermons on the liturgical year were published in two volumes within the Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology and were recently transcribed online by Marianne Dorman. Frank’s homilies are filled with imaginative prose and inspiring ascriptions of devotion and praise. The following is an especially noteworthy selection from his second homily on Christmas Day (of an unknown date). “Eternity a child, the rays of glory wrapped in rags, heaven crowded into the corner of a stable, and he that is everywhere in want of a room.”

Text St. Luke 2:7

“And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped Him in swaddling-clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”

I shall not need to tell you who this ‘she,’ or who this ‘him.’ The day rises with it in its wings. This day wrote it with the first ray of the morning sun upon the posts of the world. The angels sung it in their choirs, the morning stars together in their courses. The Virgin Mother, the Eternal Son. The most blessed among women, the fairest of the sons of men. The woman clothed with the sun: the sun compassed with a woman. She the gate of heaven: He the King of glory who came forth. She the mother of the everlasting God: He God without a mother; God blessed for evermore. Great persons as ever met upon a day.

Yet as great as the persons, and as great as the day, the great lesson of them both is to be little, to think and make little of ourselves; seeing the infinite greatness in this day become so little, Eternity a Child, the rays of glory wrapt in rags, Heaven crowded into the corner of a stable, and He who is everywhere wants a room.

I may at other times have spoken great and glorious things, both of the persons and the day: but I am determined today to know nothing but Jesus Christ in rags, but Jesus Christ in a manger. And I hope I shall have your company along: your thoughts will be my thoughts, and my thoughts yours, and both Christ’s; all upon His humility and our own. This is our first-born, which we are this day to bring forth, for it is a day of bringing forth; this we are to wrap up in our memories, this to lay up in our hearts; this the blessed mother, this the blessed Babe; this the condition, and place, and time we find them in, the taxing time, the beast’s manger, the swaddling-clouts, – all this day to preach to us.

What though there be no room for Him in the inn, though the world will not entertain Him? The devout soul will find a place to lay Him in, though it have nothing of its own but rags, a poor ragged righteousness: for our righteousness, says the prophet, ‘is but menstruous rags:’ yet the best it has it will lay Him in; and though it have nothing but a manger, a poor straight narrow soul, one of the cleanliest either to lodge Him in; yet, such as it is, He will command it, His lying there will cleanse it, and His righteousness piece our rags.

What though there be no room for Him in the inn? I hope there is in our houses for Him. It is Christmas time, and let us keep open house for Him; let His rags be our Christmas raiment, His manger our Christmas cheer, His stable our Christmas great chamber, hall dining-room. We must clothe with Him, and feed with Him, and lodge with Him at this feast. He is now ready by and by to give Himself to eat; you may see Him wrapped ready in the swaddling clothes of His blessed sacrament; you may behold Him laid upon the altar as in his manger. Do but make room for Him, and we will bring Him forth, and you will look upon him, and handle Him, and feed upon Him: bring we only the rags of a rent and torn and broken and contrite heart, the white linen cloths of pure intentions and honest affections to swathe Him in, wrap him up fast, and lay Him close to our souls and bosoms. 

It is a day of mysteries: it is a mysterious business we are about; Christ wrapped up, Christ in the sacrament, Christ in a mystery; let us be content to let it go so, believe, admire and adore it. It is sufficient that we know Christ’s swaddling clothes: His righteousness will keep us warmer than all our winter garments; His rags hold out more storms than our thickest clothes: let us put them on. His manger feeds us better than all the Asian delicates, all the dainties of the world; let us feed our souls upon Him. His stable is not hanged here with arras, or decked with gilded furniture; but it is hung infinitely with gifts and graces: the stable is dark, but there is the Light of the world to enlighten it. The smell of the beasts, our sins, are perfumed and taken away with the sweet odours of holy pardon and forgiveness; the incondite noise of the ox and ass and horse are stilled with the music of the heavenly host; the noise of our sins, with the promises of the Gospel this day brought to us. Let us not then think much to take Him wrapped up, that is, in a mystery, without examining how and which way we receive Him; it is in the condition He comes to us. Let us be content with Him in His rags, in His humblest and lowest condition; it is the way He comes today: let us ourselves wrap and lay him up in the best place we can find for Him, though the best we have will be little better than a manger.


The Rev. Dr. Eric M. Parker

Fr. Eric is the Rector of St. Paul's Anglican Church in Lexington, VA. A native of southern Mississippi, he holds an M.A. in Theology from Reformed Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in Religion from McGill University. He has co-authored a book on Nicholas of Cusa and authored various academic and online articles. He is married to Aubrey and they have three lovely children.


'A Short Homily for Christmas Day by Mark Frank (1613–1664)' have 2 comments

  1. December 25, 2022 @ 11:43 am Paul Edgerton

    Excellent! Thank you, Fr. Parker.

    Reply

  2. December 25, 2023 @ 11:05 am Deacon Jame

    Mark Frank. “…no room for him in the inn. Will we make room for him in our home…” The high point in his sermon. And, will we make straight a highway for Him to come through the desert of our earthly distractions to come into our HEARTS ?

    Reply


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