Feast of the Nativity of Christ

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Participating in Abundant Life
Nativity of Christ
25 December, 2009
Galatians 4:4-7 ; Matthew 2:1-12

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Christ is born.

In the Gospel reading, the Wise Men whom we have just met, have been searching for the newly-born King for a very long time. It took them many months to travel from Persia. They are philosophers and at the same time astrologers (this word had a better implication and meaning in those days than it does now). They are perhaps more like astronomers (one might say). The Wise Men are certainly people who studied the stars, and tried to understand some meaning in them and their movement. On the basis of the signs in the heavens, they had begun to search for the King whose star had appeared in the heavens. They understood that the appearance of the star was the indication of the birth of someone great. Even to this day, there are people amongst astronomers who can suggest (as I have seen written from time to time) that in fact there could have been some big, cosmic event about the time (give or take a few years) when the Saviour was born. It does not hurt when science can confirm the details of Scripture. Science does, in fact, confirm the details of Scripture on many, many more occasions than only this account.

These philosophers have been looking for the Saviour, and now they find Him. They find Him in an unlikely and unexpected place – in poverty. When the Wise Men come, the Saviour is no longer in the cave. It is the shepherds who find Him in the cave. When the wise men come, He is already in a house in Bethlehem (because there are relatives in the area). The Saviour is visited by these philosophers who understand Who He is. They offer to Him, through His Mother, the kingly gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Unlike most other philosophers who get us into trouble, these particular philosophers recognise Jesus Christ for Who He is. A philosopher who knows the Lord can know the truth, and therefore can be a true lover of wisdom because everything is focussed on Christ, Himself. Philosophers without the Lord get onto the wrong track because they are limited to their own minds and reasoning.

What is the meaning of the word “philosopher” ? It means “lover of wisdom”. What is true wisdom and where are we going to find it ? The answer to that question is about the same as the answer to Pontius Pilate’s question : “‘What is truth?’” (John 18:38) Truth is not a “what”. It is a “Who”. True wisdom is not a “what”. It is a “Who”. Who is this “Who” ? It is Jesus Christ, our Saviour. This is where philosophers get into trouble because they live in their heads, in their minds. Systems, logic, and this “head business” go on and on and on, following their own trains of logic and whatever, and sometimes phantasy. This goes on without reference necessarily to anything concrete, except some ideas, some principles. In the history of Christianity, this is where we have always gotten into trouble. Why did Arius get into trouble ? Why did Nestorius get into trouble ? It is because they followed ideas without reference to the Source of all ideas, thought, and wisdom who is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ says to you and to me : “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). I am the Way. I am the Truth. I am the Life, and the Light. And He is certainly Wisdom. The cathedral-church of Holy Wisdom, Hagia Sophia (that is now a museum) in Istanbul is dedicated to Christ, our Saviour Himself, because it is He who is the Wisdom of God.

This Saviour is always inviting you and me to a personal relationship with Him, which will govern and guide our lives, our thoughts and our logic. This relationship with Him, who is the Truth, will keep us always on the right path, because in Him we cannot go astray. As long as we have our hearts, our minds and our eyes focussed on Jesus Christ, our Saviour, we cannot go astray. It is only when we take our minds, our eyes, our focus off Him that we get lost, and go into fog. We get into quicksand, sometimes, because we do not look to our Saviour. Everything about this feast of the Incarnation of the Word of God is about God’s self-emptying love, His emptying of Himself, His taking on human flesh, being tempted in every way as we are except for falling into sin. He took on everything that is broken about us, everything that is dark about us, everything that is fallen about us. He brings it to His Father, in light, and in healing. He brings it into union with His Father in love. He brings us into this intimate union of love in the Holy Trinity. This is an unimaginable invitation in Him : to be taken into the Holy Trinity. There are actually some human beings who have truly experienced such a union and communion of love. Saint Alexander of Svir is one of them, and there are others in the course of human history who have had this great blessing to encounter the Holy Trinity, and live to tell the tale.

Our Saviour today is inviting you and me, all of us together in communion of love, to participate with Him in healthy, powerful, and abundant life in Him : a life which shines with the radiance of the light of His love. Let us renew our acceptance of that invitation today, and allow Him to open our hearts from within more and more. The Saviour is not outside us, although we keep using language like this, asking Him to come in. We cannot ask Him to come in. He already is in us. We exist because He is in us. It is for us to allow Him to grow in us, and allow His love to multiply and blossom from within, through our hearts. May our whole lives bear witness to the truth of His love for us, and the fact of His Incarnation. May our whole lives bear witness to the fact that in each one of us He lives, and through each one of us He ministers to others (and even to those who do not recognise His presence).

Let us ask the Lord to give us the strength to allow Him to move freely in our hearts so that we can be transformed into our true selves, the persons that He has created each of us to be : persons who reflect Him, and who shine Him to others, and to the world. In so doing, may we fulfil what Saint Herman of Alaska has been exhorting us for 200 years to do : “From this day, from this hour, from this minute, let us love God above all, and do His holy will”. In doing so we will be glorifying the all-holy Trinity : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.