How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given

As we prepare to receive the holy Sacrament at Christmas, words from a John Henry Hobart sermon (from a collection published in 1824) for Christmas Day. This short extract may seem quite unremarkable but it is this which has drawn me to it. 

The Church calls us, on this day, sacred to the commemoration of his nativity, to display our penitence, our gratitude, and our love, in that holy supper which he hath instituted, to set forth all that he hath done for us, and to assure us of the blessings which he hath purchased for us, and in which we offer to him, who hath visited and redeemed us, ourselves, our souls, and bodies, a holy sacrifice.

Its very modesty and reserve aptly captures something important to Anglican piety. Here there is no Enthusiasm, no dramatic asceticism, no urgent revivalism. But, rather, the quiet, prayerful reception of the holy Sacrament on the feast of the Lord's Nativity. How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given.

The extract is a succession of phrases from the Book of Common Prayer, exemplifying how this liturgy has shaped and sustained the prayers and piety of Anglicans over centuries.  Words, phrases, prayers from it have taken root in the Anglican soul, drawing us into the "tender mercy" of "almighty God our heavenly Father".

Referring to the "holy supper" (a term used in the second exhortation), the Old High Hobart reminds us that this tradition is an expression of the Reformed tradition and, in particular, holds to a Reformed eucharistic theology. It is an invitation to drink deeply from this rich theology and the sacramental piety associated with it, most beautifully, most powerfully expressed in Hooker's chapter on the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ in Book V of the Lawes.

Finally, of course, it is an extract from a Christmas Day sermon: "on this day, sacred to the commemoration of his nativity". We celebrate Christmas with the Prayer Book's provision for the feast, "as at this time"; with the sermons which, over centuries, have declared that "the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared"; and with the domestic and communal celebrations which have naturally marked the season. It is neither raucous nor extravagant. It is this quiet modesty and gentle reserve which brings us in heart and soul to know true and lasting joy in the Redeemer's birth.

After a Christmastide break, laudable Practice will return on 3rd January, the Year of Our Lord 2023.

Merry Christmas.


  1. Quiet modesty and gentle reserve shall be observed particularly in the first Holy Communion service I shall take in the morning, in the tiny, delightful gem of St Swithin, Ashmanhaugh. To be followed by a rather more 'enthusiastic' (though tasteful) local custom of a very large nine lessons and carols on Christmas morning at the great St Michael & All Angels, Barton Turf (famous rood screen in full glory). And then some home visits with Communion from the Prayerbook. Grace abounds in it all, and my spiritual awareness has been much helped by your thoughtful, gentle, and prayerful writing on this site. A very merry Christmas to you, and every blessing of the season.

    1. Taylor, what a joyous Christmas morning that was. Grace upon grace. I have just checked out St Swithun's online: a gem indeed.

      Thank you for your incredibly kind words about the blog: it is much appreciated.

      Blessings for Christmastide,


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