Feast of the Nativity of Christ (Old-Style)

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
God reveals His Love in the Incarnation
Feast of the Nativity of Christ (Old-Style)
7 January, 2009
Galatians 4:4-7 ; Matthew 2:1-12

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

In the beginning, Adam and Eve, our first parents, lived in complete harmony with God and His will. They were His children. He loved them, and they knew that He loved them. They loved Him. There was no break between them at all. Adam and Eve instinctively did the will of their Father because they loved their Father and they wished to be pleasing to Him. However, they fell. When they fell, fear immediately began to enter their hearts, and immediately it began to enslave them. They did not completely forget that God was their loving Father, but fear kept breaking the relationship. They continued to make mistakes, because they kept forgetting, also, to listen in their hearts so that they could perceive God’s will.

As time passed, God continued to remind their children, and their children’s children, and their children’s children’s children that He is their loving Father. Sometimes people remembered and sometimes they forgot. The more time passed, the more they forgot. By the time of Abraham, the Patriarch, God had to re-introduce Himself to Abraham and re-teach him Who He is. The descendants of Abraham had a hard time remembering about this love because fear was always there. When the Hebrew people (the descendants of Abraham) went to Egypt and lived there for a few hundred years, they became slaves in Egypt. The whole life of most slaves is based on fear. After about 200 years, the Hebrew people did not remember much about love, but they did remember a great deal about fear. They lived in the middle of a people whose worship of idols was based on fear.

When Moses came, he gave the Law on Mount Sinai because God had to re-teach people completely how a life is lived in the context of His love. He gave them the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are called the Law. However, they are not law in the manner that stop signs, red lights, and speed limits are. They are more like concrete directions. The Ten Commandments tell people very clearly that if a person loves God (which is how everything begins in the Ten Commandments) then that person will do some things, and not do other things. This Law was to show people how to live life correctly, but once again, it was not like stop signs. Because people’s habit of fear has always been so strong, in the end, the Law came between the people and God. Again, they were living in fear.

The Apostle Paul is telling us today that “when the fulness of the time had come”, the Lord God sent His Only-begotten Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ into the world. The Saviour, born of the Virgin, overcomes our fear, and He overcomes slavery. He gives us freedom and life in the context of His love. Who is Jesus Christ ? The Son of God. What is God ? The Apostle John tells us : “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The experience of believing people has always been the same experience as that of Adam and Eve – that God is truly love. Our relationship with Him, also, is to be one of love. Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, in taking on our human flesh and our whole human condition, redeemed it by His death and His Resurrection. He broke down the barriers that we had built up between ourselves and our heavenly Father. He re-united us with our heavenly Father. He opened the way because He, Himself, is the Way, as He said (see John 14:6). In Him we return in love to God, our heavenly Father, our Creator.

This feast of the Nativity of Christ celebrates the beginning of the restoration of this relationship of love and harmony between ourselves and God. It is a proclamation of God’s love for us. The confirmation of it is in what the Angel says to Joseph (as we heard in the Gospel last night at Vigil). The Child born of Mary is to be named Jesus. He us to be called Emmanuel, which means “God with us”. Who is Jesus Christ, then ? Emmanuel, God with us – that is Who He is. This also means God’s love with us. Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, restores this relationship of love.

Since His Incarnation, for 2,000 years or so, believing Christian people have encountered Him in His love, and have lived in His love. The ones who have shown the way the best are those whom we call saints – holy people. These holy people are the ones who show us best the love of God, and reveal how a Christian should be living. By what are their lives characterised ? Essentially by three things, I would say. First, they are characterised by love. Second, they are characterised by compassion. Third, they are characterised by knowing the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, and therefore they live in accordance with the Ten Commandments. They help the rest of us by their example and by their prayers to remember who we are in Jesus Christ. They help us by their prayers to be more and more like Jesus Christ. They help us by their prayers to be loving, compassionate, Christ-reflecting people, people in whom others can see Jesus Christ.

When Jesus takes flesh today, He is not only saying to you and to me : “I love you”. He is also manifesting this love in a very visible and concrete way. Likewise, you and I in our lives as Christians must put our love into concrete action. We cannot simply tell people that we love them. We cannot merely say to people : “God bless you”. We have to do something concrete about this love. In fact, I do not know of one married couple that I have ever met where it is enough for the husband to say to his wife : “I love you”, and it is enough for the wife to say to her husband : “I love you”. Saying is only saying. We have to do it. We have to live it. This is the Orthodox Christian way – the unified life. If we say that we are Orthodox Christians, and that we love Jesus Christ, then we must live our life in this love. We must do it.

God is with us. Emmanuel. Let us ask our Saviour today as we are celebrating His Birth, to give us the strength by the Grace of the Holy Spirit to live our lives concretely as true, authentic, Orthodox Christians. With our hearts, with our souls, with our bodies, with our minds, with our strength, with our whole being, may we show and do the love of Jesus Christ in the same way that He has always been showing and doing His love for us. Always He has been like that. Always He will be like that. Let us ask Him to help us to grow into this quickly so that in everything, our lives may glorify our merciful, loving, compassionate Saviour, together with the unoriginate Father, and the all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.