"Come to save us, O Lord." Icons of the Nativity include allusions to the crucifixion. Rublev's icon shown here is one example: The baby is wrapped in swaddling clothes that look like burial clothes. The cave prefigures the tomb. Christ is born to save us by his death on the cross and resurrection.
St. Ignatius of Antioch's Epistle to the Ephesians is fitting to the last full day of Advent. The first Masses of Christmas are only hours from now. St. Ignatius's letter repeatedly mentions the Nativity and the virgin's son Emmanuel, interspersed with references to the Crucifixion. In one paragraph, he wrote: "The cross of Christ is indeed a stumbling-block to those that do not believe, but to the believing it is salvation and life eternal. . . . He was conceived in the womb of Mary, according to the appointment of God, of the seed of David, and by the Holy Ghost. For says [the Scripture], 'Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and He shall be called Immanuel.'”
It almost seems like a series of non-sequitors when viewed in the context of our cultural expectation of Christmas joy. But those cultural expectations disappoint people, often rooted in childhood excitement and leaving adults sad because they do not feel the happiness they think they are supposed to feel. Those expectations do not reflect the traditional meaning of Christmas. Christ was born as Emmanuel (God with us) to die for our sins. It is beautiful, joyful, and awe inspiring.
Then there is St. Ignatius's reference to divine silence, blending the Nativity and the Crucifixion in one sentence: "Now the virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world, as was also her offspring, and the death of the Lord; three mysteries of renown,which were wrought in silence by God." We've seen that divine silence, God's silence, mentioned in one of the other quotes from the Church Fathers used in this series of Advent posts. Christmas silence, silent night silence, is an adult silence in profound awe over the mystery of the birth of our Lord who came to save us.
The darkness of Advent is dispersed by the light of Christ. "A star shone forth in heaven above all the other stars." God is manifested as a man, as King, lawgiver and savior. O Emmanuel, come to save us.