The Christmas Holidays bring a time of much celebration. For some, it is a time to enjoy the company of family and friends, parties, exchanging presents and feasting. Trips are made to the homestead, or to visit children their parents, and vice versa. Places of employment join in the celebration with company parties and gifts and bonuses are handed out. Familiar songs that declare the joy of the holidays are heard over the airwaves and in all types of businesses. Everywhere there is a feeling of joy, a shared happiness whether one is Christian or not, as we are greeted with either “Merry Christmas”, or “Happy Holidays”. More than any other time of year, the sense of being merry is conveyed to one and all.
But the Church understands there is so much more significant about Christmas than parties, presents or dinners. There is a much deeper and more important reason for our jubilation than simply having fun. We are given a clue in the Vespers from the Pre-Feast where we sing, “Prepare, O Ephratha, for Adam and Eve are renewed. Salvation enters the world and the curse is destroyed.” We have always understood our salvation as the renewal of our personhood to its original, created archetype, that of Adam and Eve. The curse of death is destroyed though the coming of the Christ, who takes on our human-ness to restore it. Remembering this event is the primary purpose of our celebration, to enjoin ourselves with the fulfillment of the Messiah’s coming. God is with us is not just a statement, it is a revelation that brings a joyous song in our hearts; it is what makes the Orthodox Christian “merry”.
Understanding the significance of the Nativity in this way produces a joy in our very being, as our soul understands its life is renewed through Christ’s coming in the flesh. The proclamation of the angels is an announcement for the whole of our being. Food and presents, company and song may give merriment to the body, but the message of the Feast is one that stirs the soul as well as the heart. Our rejoicing is centered in salvation and the overcoming of the curse of Adam, and through it not only are we given hope, but even the first created man and woman are also given hope. This is the gift of Christmas that is eternal, this is the gift meant for all mankind, in all generations, and at all times; forever changing our destiny from one of death to one of eternal life in Christ Jesus.
Let us all rejoice in this glorious day and proclaim to those we love, “Christ is born!” and let them reply to us, “Glorify Him!” For now is Salvation come to us from a loving God. If we exchange gifts, let us exchange love with them, thereby enhancing the gift itself. If we gather with family and friends, let us also meet with the poor and less fortunate and share the joy with them. If we truly feel joy in our hearts, let it be a joy we can spread to those who are sorrowing. The first celebration of the Nativity of Christ was a celebration that was shared with shepherds and Angels, Wisemen and servants. No other feast gives us the opportunity to share our joy as much as Christmas. Let us behave like shepherds and wisemen and proclaim that “Salvation enters the world and the curse is destroyed.” Let us share the joy.
It is my prayer that God will grant all of you and your loved ones a most joyous and blessed Nativity.
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
Bishop of Sitka & Alaska