Thursday, December 27, 2018

Shocking, Holy, and Humble Love for the Whole World: Homily for the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ (Christmas) in the Orthodox Church

Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!

Galatians 4:4-7; Matthew 2:1-12

      We gather today to celebrate the birth of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ for our salvation.  The details of His Nativity are important and shocking.  The Child Who was born in a cave that functioned as a barn and had an animal’s feeding trough for His crib is fully divine and fully human.  He did not appear with worldly power or wealth, as we might expect, but as the Son of a transient Jewish couple who lived under the military occupation of the Roman Empire.  When a wicked king wanted to kill Him, the family became refugees in Egypt.  From infancy, the life of the Savior was at risk at the hands of those who played by the rules of how politics and religion often function in the world as we know it.

In order to celebrate Christmas properly, we must refuse to make God in our own image.  Instead, we must allow ourselves to be called into question by the Lord Who became fully one of us as a vulnerable baby born in very dangerous circumstances.  The eternal Word Who spoke the universe into existence humbled Himself beyond our understanding in order to heal every dimension of the human person, in order to make us participants in His life by grace.  He is born of His Virgin Mother to make us sons and daughters who shine brightly with the divine glory and find complete fulfillment as we become like Him in holiness.

This is certainly not the celebration of the birth of yet another false god designed to give some worldly power over others or of a sadist out to make us miserable with fear and self-loathing.  No, this great feast is about a Lord Who lived as He was born:  with humble, self-sacrificial love purely for our sake.  We must be careful how we define “our sake” because we usually define “us” over against “them.”  In Christ, however, that division dissolves, for all people stand equally in need of the healing that He brings.  He is the New Adam Who sets right all that has gone wrong with the children of our first parents.  There is no competition between groups of people when it comes to the good news of the God-Man born in Bethlehem.  Gentile astrologers and lowly shepherds both played their roles at His birth.  He is the Jewish Messiah Who ministered to a Samaritan woman, cast demons out of Gentiles, and praised the faith of a Roman centurion.  He showed mercy to public sinners and outcasts, and identified Himself with “the least of these” in society.  He turned the other check to His enemies and prayed that the Father would forgive them.

If we celebrate Christmas truly, we will see that every human person is someone for whom the Savior was born.  He took on the same humanity that all people share so that all of us would be united with Him in holiness.  In every condition and circumstance, and at every stage of life, everyone bears the dignity of a living icon of God.  He has made that clear by becoming one of us.  We must treat neighbors, strangers, and enemies accordingly, if we claim any part in Him.

In His birth, the God-Man lowers Himself to take on all the brokenness of life in our world of corruption in order to heal us.   He is born to share His divine life with us as He restores and fulfills every dimension of who we are as human persons in the image and likeness of God.  That is the gloriously good news of this great feast, and it extends literally to all. Let us celebrate His Nativity by uniting ourselves to Him as fully as possible from the depths of our souls.  That is really the only fitting way to welcome the Child born in Bethlehem for the salvation of the world.

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