Sermon for the Feast of the Nativity of Christ (2017)

Sermon for the Feast of the Nativity of Christ (2017) - Holy Cross Monastery

+ Through the prayers of Our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, Our God, have mercy on us.

There is a quote by Elder Aimilianos that I think is so appropriate for this Feast of the Nativity. The quote is this:

“That which we lack is precisely faith, not in the existence of God, but in the fact that He can do anything and does indeed do everything!”

This quote strikes right at the heart of our modern post Christian society and raises all sorts of questions: Is God really involved in our daily lives? Can God really heal diseases? Does God care about my sufferings? Can God reverse the elements of nature? These questions seem to be part of the air we breathe today, even part of some modernist Christian theology.

In a recent irreverent article in the Huffington Post entitled, “God Doesn’t Care About You” by Patrick Stephenson, the former speech writer for the NATO Secretary General, he writes,

“The universe is a Petri dish. God swirled the happy juice around, poured us into the dish, put us in the incubator, and now he’s on the outside looking in, seeing what grows. What lives and what dies. What works and what doesn’t. So don’t look to God to help you pay your credit card bills or pick your lucky lottery numbers. He doesn’t care. Like it or not, we’re on our own.”

And he continues…

“But I think God gives us a sense of what He’d like to see. He gives us love. Love is the lubricant of life. Without love, life is a desert. With love, life is a garden.”

And he concludes…

“So while God may not care about individuals, nations, peoples or religions, God does care about love.”

For us Orthodox Christians, this kind of thinking and the questions that it poses sounds not only irreverent and unthinkable but blasphemous and bizarre. And yet, this is becoming more and more a part of our culture, and even some mainstream churches.

The Nativity of Christ, or Christmas, is for many modernist Christians and atheists one of the most difficult of all Christian festivals. If God really did just create us and then left us alone, then the incarnation of Christ is the most outrageous lie of all times. For these people, Christmas has to be dealt with, it must disarmed of its incarnational power. The real message of Christmas must removed. It must be robbed of all spiritual significance and become a totally secular holiday, concerned only with something far less threatening like, “Peace and Love”, who could argue with that and who could be threatened by that?

In light of all this, I think it is certainly understandable when we look at what Christmas has become today. Robbed of all its spiritual power, Christmas has become a frenzy of materialism that much of our modern economy relies on to survive. Some who try to observe a sort of spiritual dimension have turned it into an important “family holiday”. One mega church in eastern Kentucky recently cancelled all church services on Christmas so that people can spend time with their families!

But a Christianity robbed of its transcendence, robbed of its incarnate God, loving and caring for His creation is actually no longer Christianity. Everything in the Old Testament, everything in the New Testament, everything in the lives of the saints and everything in the daily life of The Church tells us…that God created all things, sustains all things and can do all things! He is not bound by clocks or calendars; these are our inventions. He is not bound by nature because He created nature and can silence the storm. He is not bound by death because he defeated death. The very fabric of our lives as Orthodox Christians is so interwoven with these truths that we cannot imagine our life with them. In fact, life without these truths would not be real life at all but some sort of fantasy. Authentic Christian living is based on this statement of faith by Elder Aimilianos, and again I quote the Elder:

“That which we lack is precisely faith, not in the existence of God, but in the fact that He can do anything and does indeed do everything!”

Living this faith, the Nativity of Christ becomes a cause of great spiritual rejoicing. God has become incarnate and walked among us because He loves us and desires the salvation of all mankind. He is not removed from His creation but has entered deeply into this world, taking on our flesh and experiencing our sorrows, leading us on the narrow path of salvation. This is the great joy of Christmas, that you are not alone but are living in the reality that not a hair can fall from your head without God’s permission. Nothing can happen to you without the permission of God. And His commitment to us is so great that he seeks to remove all stumbling blocks to His love, there is no sin so great that it can drive away His love. Our Saviour makes this very clear when he speaks of Himself as being the Good Shepherd that leaves the ninety-nine sheep and seeks after the one that is lost.

The Feast of the Nativity is a celebration that God does care about His creation. He has become incarnate, He took on our flesh and walked among us. The invisible God is “willing to be gazed upon”. We see the beginning of this great revelation when the angel appeared to the frightened shepherds on the night of Christ’s birth and said to them,

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Lk2:10-11)

Our response to this incredible news that the angel proclaimed to the shepherds is sung in the Kontakion for the Forefeast of Nativity: “Dance, O earth, at the message! Give glory with the angels and shepherds!” Our God, the true and only God cares about us His creation so much that he became one of us. He, the Creator of all things, walked this very earth, spoke with us and taught us the saving truth, the path of salvation. He showed His genuine love for us as He healed the blind, raised the dead and forgave sins. The Feast of the Nativity, Christmas, is about all this…and so it is my dear brothers and sisters on this holy day, with firm faith and immense joy, that I greet you with the great festive proclamation…


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