In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Christ is born! Glorify Him!
My beloved, today we have gathered here to celebrate the Nativity of Christ, the birth of the Son of God. For the past forty days, we have been preparing ourselves for this great event by fasting, alms-giving, and through prayer, and now we have finally arrived at this great feast. After the Liturgy and when we return home, many of us will celebrate the birth of Christ by giving gifts to one another. In the excitement of unwrapping our presents, it is sometimes very easy to lose sight of “the reason for the season,” especially for the younger folks – or the young at heart. I would just like to take this opportunity to help you unwrap the greatest gift of all.
I’m sure we’re all familiar with the verse that says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” This gift of God to the world is the beginning of our salvation, but there’s more to it than simply “not perishing.” Just a few minutes ago, we heard the epistle reading which told us that when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son to redeem those who were under the Law so that we might receive the adoption of sons. We focus on the birth of Christ so much that it’s very easy to miss the second part of God’s gift for us, but here it is. “God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, therefore you are no longer a slave but a son.” The gift of love the Father has given us is that we should be called the sons of God! The ultimate reason for God’s gift of His Son was not so that we could sing Christmas carols or decorate our homes or unwrap presents. The Word of God, Jesus Christ, became flesh and whoever received Him, received the right to become children of God.
It is SO easy for us to lose sight of Christ in the frenzy that surrounds Christmas – the overtime at work so we can take a few days off, final exam week for those in school, the shopping, the crowds, the traffic and stress. Now we are finally here, in Church. All our preparations are complete. Let us pause now, and as we celebrate the birth of the Son of God 2000 years ago, let us think about some of the other preparations we have made. Beginning on the fifteenth of November, the Orthodox Church begins helping each one of us prepare to receive Christ by giving us the Nativity Fast. In the midst of the busiest, most commercialized time of the year, our Church gives us the opportunity to keep things in perspective. Not only is the Fast a great help in avoiding gluttony, it is also a reminder to us of those who have much less than we do – or in some cases, even nothing. In the Orthodox Church, fasting is never merely a matter of what we do or do not eat. It is always connected with concern for other people, with giving to the poor and needy. In a season which seems dedicated to self-gratification, this is a serious matter, especially since there are many in society who do not even have what they need to survive, let alone all the latest toys and goodies from Best Buy. At a time when the whole world seems to be celebrating, our fast before Christmas can help bring joy into the lives of others.
There is another aspect to the Nativity Fast. It is not only an opportunity to give to others, it is also crucial for our preparation to receive Christ. In the prayers before Communion which many of us read at home, we find this prayer of St. John Chrysostom. “O Lord my God, I know that I am not worthy nor sufficient that thou shouldest enter under the roof of the house of my soul, for it is all deserted and in ruins, and thou has not a worthy place in me to lay thy head. But as from the heights of thy glory thou didst humble thyself, so now bear me in my humility; as thou didst deign to lie in the cave in a manger of dumb animals, so deign now also to come into the manger of my dumb soul and soiled body.” Very shortly, we will be given the opportunity to receive the Holy Gifts of the Body and Blood of Christ. As we have been preparing ourselves to celebrate the birth of Christ throughout the Nativity Fast, so too we prepare our hearts EVERY time we receive Christ through the sacrament of Holy Communion.
My beloved, Christ was born in a cave on earth 2000 years ago, but today He is still seeking to be born within us. You’ve heard it said that God became man so that man might become god. Let us give our hearts to God so that Christ may be born in us and give US the chance to become God's children. At the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, may we all find room for Christ is in our hearts. THIS is the reason for the season. This is why Christ came – so that we too may become sons of God.
Christ is born! Glorify Him!
The festival of Christ's birthday by St. Gregory Nazianzos
The Nativity sermon by Saint John Chrysostom
Sermons on the Feast of the Nativity of Christ by St. Leo the Great
Meditation for Christmas
Malankara World Supplement on Christmas (includes articles and sermons on Christmas)
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