The Promise of Christmas


In order to truly understand the message and promise of Christmas we have to return briefly to the visit of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, cue dream sequence music… We find this passage in the first chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel.  We read that when Elizabeth herd the greeting of Mary the baby leaped in her womb, John the Baptist, still in his mother’s womb, heard the greeting of the Theotokos and he leaped for joy!  His savior, Christ was on His way!

Mary becomes overwhelmed by this and we have her greatest, and longest, lines in Scripture. My soul magnifies the Lord. And my spirit rejoices in God my savior!

Mary comes to the understanding of what she is doing and who the child she is carrying is going to be.  Language becomes useless at her joy in this discovery, that which knew and knows no limits, he condescended to humble Himself and become like one of us in all things except for sin.  He has come to show us the way, the truth, and the light!

The Venerable Bede commenting on this passage of Scripture makes it plain what we are supposed to do. “Those who know the Lord, yet refuse to proclaim His greatness and sanctify His name to the limit of their power, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven!”  We must, like Mary, humble ourselves to His greatness but at the same time we must proclaim that same greatness not only with our voices but with our lives!

St. Athanasius says that “God became man that man might become god.”  He is speaking of the transformative power of the incarnation of God in our lives, the power to transform sinners into saints, the power to transform our lives into something else, something greater than ourselves.  “God became man that man might become god.”  He has done his part have you done yours!

Last Sunday we heard the Gospel passage of the announcement of the birth of Christ.  You shall call His name Emmanuel, not Emmanuish, man with us, but Emmanuel, God with us!  I am not sure we truly grasp the awesomeness of what we are talking about here and I am not really sure our feeble human minds can truly grasp this.  God, the creator of all things, humbled himself to take on our low estate that He might show us the way.

I know it might sound odd to link Easter with Nativity but that is exactly what we have to do.  Fr. Alexander Schmemann of Blessed memory used to refer to the period that we are about to enter into as the Winter Pascha because there is definitely a connection between the two.

On Holy Thursday night I carry the cross from the sanctuary out and into the people, it placed in the center of the Church and the figure of Christ is affixed on the Cross.  After this we sing the 15th stanza of the Matins of Holy and Great Friday that begins with Today He who hung the earth upon the water is hung upon the tree.

On the eve of the Nativity we sing a similar hymn, let’s look at them in comparison:

Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the tree.
Today He who hold the whole of creation in His hand is born of a Virgin.
The King of Angels is decked with a crown of thorns.
He whose essence none can touch is bound in swaddling-clothes as a mortal man.
He who wraps the heavens in a cloud is wrapped in the purple of mockery.
God who in the beginning fashioned the heavens lies in a manger.
He who freed Adam in the Jordan in slapped in the face.
He who rained manna on His people in the wilderness is fed from His mother’s breast.
The Bridegroom of the Church is affixed to the cross with nails
The Bridegroom of the church summons the wise men
The Son of the Virgin is pierced with a spear.
The Son of the Virgin accepts their gifts.
We Worship Thy Passion, O Christ!
We Worship Thy Nativity, O Christ!
Show us also Thy glorious Resurrection!
Show us also Thy glorious Theophany!

Tonight Jesus was born and lies in the stable during the reign of Caesar Augustus that He might lay in His tomb under Pontius Pilate.  He was sought after and hounded by Herod that He might be caught by the High Priest Caiaphas. He was buried in His baptism by John in the Jordan that He might descend into death through the Cross. He was worshiped by the three wise men of the east that the entirety of creation might adore Him at His triumph over death.

The Pascha of His Resurrection was begun by the Pascha of His Incarnation. The Pascha of His Glorification was foretold by the Pascha of His Baptism.

This is the spirit of Christmas, and this is promise of Christmas that Christ was born that He might show us the way!

God became man that man might become God.  He has done His part, are you doing yours?

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