My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Savior,
I would like to encourage all of you to continue your struggle to prepare spiritually for the Birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. During this holy season the Orthodox Christian intensifies his or her spiritual lives in order to ready our souls and bodies for the Great Feast. We do this through fasting, prayer, alms-giving, repentance/confession and increased attention given to “preparing for His coming” to make sure we’ve done what we can to make a “fit dwelling place for Him” in our hearts and lives. It is necessary and most important that we increase our prayer life, turn and study the Holy Scripture and spiritual books written by the Saints of our Church. Everyone must make a strong effort to avoid gossiping, slander, anger, hatred, laziness, arrogance, and pride.
If you prepare in this way, God will bless you and we will find the Holy Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord to be far more spiritually rewarding than ever before. As Orthodox Christian believers we understand the purpose of fasting is to focus on the things that are above, the Kingdom of God. It is a means of putting on virtue in reality, here and now. Through it we are freed from dependence on worldly things. We fast faithfully and in secret, not judging others, and not holding ourselves up as an example.
It is tragic when even during the holy season of the Nativity there are those who miss the target, Christ Our Savior. Everything in life centers around the Person of Our God and Savior Jesus Christ for He is the Life and the Resurrection. He is Agape and Grace and Peace.
People who have no faith, have no love, have no inner peace, have no hope, are people who live in sadness and despair. Their life is empty and filled with fear and anger. The unfortunate thing is that they are lead by the Evil One to engage in sinful and evil acts and attempt to distract others from fulfilling their struggle and preparation for the coming of Christ. We must pray for them and God’s forgiveness and mercy.
Permit me to turn your attention to the holy Apostle James (Iakovos), and who in his epistle writes to every Christian about the dangers of the spiritual warfare that we are engaged in and specifically about the misuse of the tongue. He writes, “Indeed, we put bits in horses mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. If is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison…” (St. James 3:3-8).
I must caution you not to give in to temptation and ignore the word of God. When we turn away from Him we bring up ourselves condemnation, darkness and destruction of our souls. Death can come to anyone of us at any time and it is imperative that we are spiritually prepared. I don’t believe that anyone would want to leave this world, this life, full of anger, hatred, and full of malice. Instead, let us at this solemn, beautiful, joyous, and holy season open our hearts to the grace of God and allow Him to dwell within them. To bring His Light and to warm our hearts that may be cold, dark, suffering with hopelessness and who are tormented because of lack of faith and love.
Let us accept the gift of Salvation that comes through His Divine Birth and give glory and praise to Our Creator and Redeemer. Instead of spreading slander and gossip, let everyone spread the Good News of His Coming.
With agape in His Divine Birth,