Feast of the Nativity of Christ

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
The Incarnation of the Lord’s Love
Feast of the Nativity of Christ
25 December, 2008
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.

The Incarnation is central to our lives ; and in fact, the Incarnation is central to the whole way of Orthodox living. The Incarnation of our Lord, God, and Saviour, Jesus Christ is central to everything that we are. When we are considering this vitally important fact in our lives, Orthodox Christians are not concerned with philosophy, nor are we concerned with any sort of detached spiritism or spirituality. Rather, we are very much concerned with living out the consequences of the enfleshment of the Love of God. That is precisely what is the meaning of the word “Incarnation”. That is what we celebrate at this and every Feast of the Nativity.

The Word of God takes flesh. The Word of God is Love, because God is Love. This is just plain, simple logic. God reveals Himself to us as Love. He lives love in every encounter with human beings. We Orthodox Christians live in a relationship of love with God. We live out the consequences of that relationship of love for God. Always, our lives are blessed. Always, the Lord is with us. We just sang that quite a few times a little while ago in Great Compline. God is always with us. He is always with us in His love.

Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we do stupid things – we are human beings. However, the Lord is still always with us in His love. He is always dragging us up from our dirt, our brokenness, our mistakes, our darkness, our fears, and everything else. He is always pulling us up. The Paschal icon is a demonstration of that. The Lord is sending Guardian Angels to protect us. He is always involved in our lives in loving, protecting, life-giving, and healing ways. In exactly the same way, the Lord is involved in the lives of the people that we are encountering as we are reading the Holy Scriptures. In the reading of the Gospels, we meet people who are likewise touched by Him, even though this touching occurred many, many years ago.

In our own lives today, the Lord continues to touch us, to heal us, to renew us, and to give us life. It does not matter whether we are significant or insignificant persons (in the eyes of the world). What matters is who we are in the eyes of the Lord. Who are we in the eyes of the Lord, except His beloved children for whom He cares more deeply than we can comprehend. He is so concerned about us, and so interested in each of us that He says that He counts the hairs of our head (even though they might sometimes be not so numerous – He still knows how many there are, how many there were, and what potentially might be there). In the same way that He knows when a sparrow is falling, He knows everything about us (see Matthew 10:29, 30). He cares about absolutely every detail in our lives. It is important that we have no doubt about His care for us, His love for us, His presence with us. In celebrating this Feast, it is important that we remember all this. Since Adam and Eve, God has prepared for the taking of flesh of the Word of God. Everything that comes from the Incarnation, from the enfleshment of the Word of God, brings life and healing to the world.

Very often we can say : “We Orthodox are so insignificant here in this country. People do not see us. We are here, worshipping the Lord, but what effect do we have ? How do we affect our world and our society ?” The fact is, that very often we do not see how we affect the world and society. We do not see what effect there is from our living out love. We may not see very much of it. However, I can tell you that just in the course of my lifetime, I have seen the Orthodox Church in Canada go from complete insignificance, rejection, and ridicule to being a truly significant element in Canadian society. The Orthodox Church in n, which has somehow always been visible, is now in our days having some concrete influence in this city. In many places, people are finding examples of the Orthodox way in this city. There are big changes that have occurred. We are still only at the beginning of comprehending and beginning to do the things that the Lord has for us Orthodox believers to do.

What matters, however, is not so much what we are doing. What matters is that the Lord is doing it in us. This is one of the reasons that we do not see very often the small things that are occurring, because it is the Lord who is acting. We pray every day; we intercede for one person or another, and we offer our lives in love. The Lord, by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, is working through us and in us. He is touching the lives of people around us.

Many of you at this time of year will have seen the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, with Jimmy Stewart as the principal actor. It is a sentimental movie, of course. However, the fundamental point is that if he had not lived, everything would have been completely topsy-turvy, and it would have been very horrible for the people around him. It is the same thing for you and for me. This movie can tell us that much.

It is who we are in Christ that really makes the difference to people around us (even if they never say so). It is not so much our personal existence otherwise. I have heard many times in my life about how much the life of one person or another has affected for good the lives of many people around them in very significant ways. At the same time, this person was never particularly aware of it. Usually, we hear this when someone dies. People talk about it then. Before that, people do not really think about it. We just live with each other. However, when someone dies, and the person is gone, we suddenly feel the void, and we truly are brought up short. We notice how much this person influenced our lives, somehow. You and I have this significance and influence in the world because the Lord is with us and in us. He is working with the gifts that He has given us to help us find our way into the Kingdom of Heaven, and to help other people find their way into the Kingdom of Heaven.

The root of the life of the Orthodox Church is the Incarnation. We cannot speak about the love of God unless we do something about it. We can say that we are Orthodox Christians, but we have to do it, and be it. We have to bear Christ. We have to present Christ in the way we live – in how we do good, and how we repent when we fail. All these things are essential, because it is through repentance that healing comes. Therefore, let us daily ask the Lord to be with us, to strengthen us, to encourage us. Let us ask Him constantly to remind us that He is indeed with us, and that we should not be afraid of anything. He has told us these things. We accept these facts. However, we still need perpetual reminders, and we perpetually ask for the reminders. Therefore, knowing that the Lord, being with us, will give us all that we need, let us daily ask Him to help us to turn to Him and to live in His love and His truth.

We see this in the lives of Saint Herman and many other saints. Let us live out, with them and with Saint Herman, the actualisation of his exhortation : “From this day, from this hour, from this minute, let us love God above all, and do His holy will”, and so glorify the All-Holy Trinity : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.