Today is the Orthodox Old Calendar Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Let Us glorify His Nativity!
The following is adapted from the sermons of Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky):
The time finally came for the promised Saviour of the world to appear on earth. He was born at night, of the Holy Virgin Mary, in the city of Bethlehem, in a cave which was used for sheltering cattle. An angel of the Lord brought the news to shepherds who were tending their cattle that night in a field not far from the cave. Together with the divine messenger there suddenly appeared a host of angels. They glorified God and sang: “Glory to God on high and peace on earth, and goodwill among men.” The shepherds rushed to the cave and knelt before the Infant Christ.
Two thousand years have passed since that blessed night, in which the angel announced the great joy that would come to all people. And in the course of these 2,000 years the Holy Church, while annually reliving the exultation of that night in Bethlehem, tells us over and over again of what happened, and that it was truly a great joy.
But what is the essence of that joy?
“Glory to God on high and peace on earth, and goodwill among men.”
In the very beginning of mankind’s existence, when Adam and Eve dwelled in the garden of Eden, they lived in such a state of bliss that we, in our current sinful condition, cannot even begin to comprehend. They had the joy of speaking face-to-face, like children with their father, to God Himself, Who put aside His inaccessible majesty and appeared to them very simply, as a Father to His beloved children. But through the malicious envy of the devil, the first-created people sinned and lost that bliss, and were expelled from paradise.
Then the Lord, in His infinite mercy, did not wish to abandon His beloved creation. In order to save man, who had fallen away from God, the Lord Himself came down to earth, to become man and to take on a form in which He would once again be easily accessible to men.
And so today there lies in the manger in Bethlehem the Divine God, Who is also man. As God He is inaccessible and awe-inspiring, and even the angelic host does not dare gaze upon Him; yet at the same time He is a man like us, similar to us in all but sin. Therefore, since the One Who lies in the manger is a man and at the same time the Son of God, – then we, being His brothers by virtue of His humanity, through Him have now also become the sons of God.
Therein lies the deep significance of Christ’s incarnation.
The Apostle Paul tells us that God sent His Son down to earth, in order for Him to redeem us, so that we could once again become His children. We – all of mankind – were foresworn sinners, but He came, took our sins upon Himself, atoned for all of us, and now we once more possess the grace of being the sons of God.
Thus, mentally standing on this great day at the manger of Bethlehem, we realize with joy and awe that we are not only God’s creation, but also His children. And let us remember with immense gratitude that the Lord has mercifully done such a wondrous deed, and that instead of punishing man, who was guilty of sin, He not only took that punishment upon Himself, but more than that – he affiliated man to God the Father.
Let us love the newborn Infant Christ with all the tenderness of our soul, as our Saviour and our Redeemer, and let us bring Him the gift of our pure and loving heart.