Sunday Before Nativity
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ… We stand today on the threshold of the great feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. We heard today in the Epistle and Gospel readings of the lineage of the generations leading up to the birth of Christ and of the rich and amazing history of the faithfulness of those people who lived in anticipation of the promise.
The significance of the incarnation of Christ is something that we cannot fully understand in our minds and hearts. It is an act of extraordinary compassionate love!
The Evangelist John proclaims: ‘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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.’
God takes on human flesh and enters into this world of joy and sorrow, of blood and sweat and tears. He deigns to be born in obscurity and poverty – lying in a cave meant for beasts, vulnerable and naked – a baby in the arms of a young virgin.
It is so important for us to recognize Who He is… that this vulnerable Infant is God, the Maker of heaven and earth. And that God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, has become this vulnerable Infant. Think about this for a moment!...
When we contemplate the fact that God Himself has taken on humanity and become a man born in time and place, a man of flesh and blood, submitting Himself to cold and heat, to friendship and loneliness, to hunger and fullness, to joy and to sorrow, even unto death... we should not only be astounded by the generosity and compassion of God, but we also must recognize that God – having passed through the human experience – understands our own sorrows and trials in the most intimate way possible… He has endured them all.
And not only has He endured our pains and sorrows, but as God, He has triumphed over them and has transformed them – giving us hope and opening them up as a door toward our own healing and salvation.
The Orthodox Church has fought valiantly over the centuries to uphold this clear truth about the nature of Jesus Christ – that He was fully God and fully man. This is not just theological hair-splitting… it is essential for us to be clear and faithful to this Divine Truth.
This is important because the Child Whose birth we are about to celebrate, being fully man, experiences our human life in all of its highs and lows with only one exception – He does not submit to sin. He has shed tears, even experiencing such anguish in the Garden of Gethsemene that those tears fell down as blood. God is not distant… He can be with you in your darkest hours because He has passed through more than any of us can ever even imagine.
And He is fully God… the Eternal One and Second Person of the Holy Trinity entering into this human life out of His great and compassionate love. This is critically important, because as God He sanctifies everything He touches – healing the blind, the deaf, the lame, and facilitating and inviting us to the healing of all of the human experience if we enter into this life of Christ. He has sanctified the human experience by gracing it with His Divinity. He has transfigured everything – even suffering, sorrow, and death… triumphing over all things by the radiance of His Holiness.
And Christ calls us to enter into and participate in His triumph as we unite ourselves to Him.
The feast of the Nativity, which we are about to celebrate, is THE pivotal moment in history. It can be THE pivotal moment in our lives if we come to this feast with a clear understanding of the great mystery and incredible mercy which is about to unfold - if we approach to worship the Christ Child offering the true and acceptable sacrifice of our love and devotion.
Let us watch and pray as we await the awesome Nativity of our Lord. Let us reflect on how incredible it is that He who cradles the universe in the crook of His arm deigns to be cradled in the arms of a young virgin. May the words of the Nativity Hymn guide our celebration: ‘Thy nativity, O Christ our God, hast shone upon the world the light of knowledge. For by it those who worshipped the stars, were taught by a star to adore Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Dayspring from on High, O Lord glory to Thee!’