Feast of the Nativity of Christ (Old-Style)

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Responding to the Gift of Love
Feast of the Nativity of Christ (Old-Style)
7 January, 2010
Galatians 4:4-7 ; Matthew 2:1-12


[This audio file has been edited since audio and written styles are not the same but very different ways of communication.]

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Herod the King is a very troubled man. He is very troubled because, on the one hand, he believes in God, in a manner of speaking. On the other hand, he is afraid that what God will do will deprive him of his kingship. Therefore, when the wise men come from the East to look for the new-born King, he is very disturbed. He understands that these wise men could read signs in the stars, and that they had seen a sign in the stars that a king had been born in his territory. Because he is afraid of losing his kingship, and because he is comfortable with the distance between himself and God, he continues to try to control everything. When the wise men are reporting to him, he is trying to discover where is this Child. Herod wants to find out these details because he wants to kill this Child, and remove any competition for his kingship.

We will be celebrating very soon the feast of the 14,000 baby boys under the age of two that were killed by the king. He thought that he was going to kill for certain this competitor (that was spoken of by the wise men) if he killed every boy under the age of two. In seeing this example of a man who is trying to stop God from accomplishing His will, we see very well that believing is not enough because, “even the demons believe — and shudder” (James 2:19).

The Lord wants love from you and from me, and from us all. He wants us to respond to the love that He gives to us. The Feast of the Incarnation of the Word of God that we are celebrating today is a celebration of this love of God for us. The Lord takes flesh and lives amongst us as a human being. God shows to us His love and His humility. He is offering life to you and to me in the Incarnation. He is offering life to us in His eternal and heavenly Kingdom. He is not presenting to us a philosophical principle. He is not offering to us a political movement, either. He is offering to us love and life.

It is important for you and for me to ask ourselves often : “How am I responding to this, God’s offering of love and life to us ? Am I accepting His gift to me ? Am I responding in love, or am I behaving like Herod ? Do I accept what God is giving to me, or do I try to change what He is giving to me ? Do I think that God does not know well enough what I need ? Do I try to make God give me what I myself think I must have ?”

It is very important for us Orthodox Christians in Canada to remember Whom it is that we are serving. In this country, we are prepared all the time to look after ourselves with self-will, and to look to our independent sense of our own needs. “I” always comes first in our Canadian culture. How many times in any week do we hear the saying : “You have to look after ‘number one’”? It was not always this way in Canada, but it is so now. I recall that when I was but a lad, my mother would comment about the egocentricity of certain persons, and say that the person likely wears a sweater with the letter “I” sewn on the front. Egocentrism was unusual and discouraged then, but now it is encouraged and customary. This way of understanding things is the opposite of the Orthodox way. It is the opposite of the Gospel of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Because of this, our country has a very large number of psychiatrists, psychologists, and self-help groups trying to meet the psychological and spiritual pain that people in Canada are feeling.

The Orthodox way, the way of Christ, can bring healing to people. We have just sung : “As many as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ” (see Galatians 3:27). As Orthodox Christians, we are carrying Christ wherever we go. We know the love of Jesus Christ. We have experience of the love of Jesus Christ. We know how to give love, also. We know how to allow the Lord to heal our broken hearts. For us Orthodox Christians, it is possible to have joy in the middle of sorrow. We are not like Herod : we are not slaves of fear. We are not like too many of the citizens of Canada : we are not slaves of fear. We Orthodox Christians understand what is true freedom in the love of God. Since the Lord has given us the gift of love and life in the Incarnation of His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, we have a gift to give to those around us in this country. This gift is the joy and the peace which we know.

Let us ask the Lord to renew our strength so that in the coming year we will be able to be faithful to Him. In the course of this year, may His love be seen in us more and more by those around us, so that those who are looking for the Truth may find Him. There is only one Truth, and that Truth is Jesus Christ. Christ is born, and we rejoice. Christ is born, and we have strength to live. Christ is born, and the light is shining in the darkness. May this light shine in every one of us every day of our lives, and may our whole lives glorify the All-Holy Trinity : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.