Malankara World

Christmas Sermon - The Birthday of Jesus

Practicing Simplicity, Kindness And Prayer

by Rev. Fr. Alexander J. Kurien

"I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people." St. Luke 2:10.

That means for all of us - for those of us:

1) who've been rushing about desperately trying to get ready for Christmas;
2) who are overwhelmed by the commercialism of this season;
3) who can't find enough time for our families and friends;
4) who experience this as one of the most stressful times of the year;
5) who've lost jobs in a sour economy; and,
6) who despair of peace and justice ever coming in a world filled with terrorism and oppression.

"I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people."

Those words were originally heard only by a handful of shepherds some 2010 years ago. What exactly was the "good news of great joy" of which the angel of God spoke?

Well, it was news of the birth of the Savior, the Messiah, and our Lord. The announced was not the great crown prince referenced in the Book of Isaiah. He was named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. Instead of being born into royalty, Luke tells us that the Savior, the Messiah, the Lord was born to an unmarried couple staying with animals in a barn. Instead of being dressed in royal garments and laid in an ornate crib, the long-expected Messiah was wrapped in mere bands of cloth and placed in a feeding trough.

A third of a century later, after only 3 years of active ministry, this Messiah was painfully executed on a cross at the hands of the rulers of Israel. He died being taunted by soldiers who'd put a crown of thorns on his head and a plaque on the top of his cross titling him "The King of the Jews."

So, what is the "good news of great joy" for us on this Christmas Day? First of all, through Jesus, God has entered into our daily lives, redeemed, and saved us. Theologians have debated for years on exactly how God has redeemed and saved us. For me, it simply means that by God's grace all of our evil deeds are ultimately forgiven and we've been given a vision of ultimate meaning and purpose in life, defined as love. Specifically for us today, I suggest that we concentrate on three practices to exercise love ourselves and to demonstrate our gratitude for God's gift to the world. Those practices are:

1) simplicity
2) kindness and
3) prayer.

It is a Gift to Be Simple. Simplicity brings freedom and delight. Through simplicity we discover love, we find ourselves in the place just right, and we come out right. Keep our eyes on what really matters in each of our lives -- which inevitably is our important relationships, at home and in community, not our important material possessions. Good news of great joy appears to simple shepherds and loving parents as they gaze at a baby in a cold barn, not as they enjoy worldly riches in a sumptuous castle.

We read today: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." St. Luke 2: 14.

Jesus comes into the world with a message of peace and goodwill. And so I encourage us today to commit to a regular practice of loving kindness. Our task is to live a life, and not merely a single day or season, which is delivered of prejudice and pride, hostility and hate, and committed to understanding, compassion and goodwill. Some of our people live their entire lives hating someone. They are so involved in all church activities, quotes bible verse, and receive Holy Eucharist on every Sunday. I feel pity for these hypocrites on the judgment day. Kindness is a practice which includes, in the words of Jesus, loving one's enemies, doing good to those who hate you, turning the other cheek, not judging lest we be judged, feeding the hungry, and sheltering the homeless. These may seem like radical demands, but Jesus sums them up this way: "In everything, do unto others as you would have them do unto you; for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12. And so, let us use Christmas as a vehicle to an ongoing practice of loving kindness to the poor, oppressed, sick, persecuted, and the miserable throughout the world.

Finally, along with simplicity and loving kindness, I emphasize the importance of practicing of prayer. Our Orthodox service is filled with prayers, both spoken and sung. We share Prayers of the People, prayers at the Holy Eucharist, a Prayer for Illumination, and a prayer of Benediction. I wish we could live as if our whole lives were a prayer.

By prayer, I don't only mean addressing God in praise or petition. Christian prayer has traditionally also had a listening dimension which is called meditation. That can be done not only sitting, but walking and acting with an open, attentive attitude.

A third form has been contemplative prayer, centered on the divine presence within us; perfected by mystics who report experiences of unity with God.

A fourth dimension has been prayer in communion with other people, most obviously in a worship service, but also in many smaller contexts where we join with others for support and companionship evoking the presence of God. In any of its forms, though, prayer can help free us from our own ego, help us see the big picture rather than the petty and the transitory, and help us put everyday stress into context.

On this Christmas Day, my prayer for each one of us is that through the practice of simplicity we slow down enough to see into the true heart of things, that through loving kindness we open ourselves to true relationship in a transformed world, and that through prayer we transcend ourselves in true commitment to our Jesus, our Savior, born to us on this Christmas Day. Then, perhaps, we can truly hear the good news of great joy for all people that are announced on this Christmas Day.

I would like to take this opportunity wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.

See Also:

Sermon for Christmas Day by Rev. Dr. V Kurian Thomas
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ who is the son of God and savior of all people. With the birth of Jesus Christ, Christianity essentially begins. Thus, Christmas also celebrates the beginning of Christianity.

Christmas Message - Where Do You Belong? by Rev. Fr. K. K. John
A true Christian is not the one who lives according to his/her own whims and fancies but the one, who lives Christ-like. Mere interest in certain rituals and obedience to a system or hierarchy profits none; one must reflect Christian virtues and that is hardest of all.

What are we searching for? by H.G. Yuhanon Mor Meletius
This was the beginning of a new chapter in the history of humanity guided by God. God initiated the history of the world in creation hoping that it will steadily progress in the manner God wanted it to be. But human, with his greed, set the pace in a distorted direction. What God wanted was a history of humans in participation with God.

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