Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas: A Mystery Unfolding

Icon of the Nativity of Christ by the hand of Constantine Youssis.  This icon can be purchased here from Come and See Icons.
We find ourselves today celebrating the third day of the Feast of the Nativity.  It is a fast free week for Orthodox Christians in America and the feasting continues until Saturday when we celebrate another day, The Lord's Circumcision.  And then, 5 days later, we find ourselves celebrating AGAIN when we remember the Lord's baptism in the Jordan.   Orthodox Christians fast and pray like no others, but then they also celebrate like no others. 

However, even as we are in this time of feasting, it is also a time for continued reflection on what has just occurred. And what has occurred is a mystery.  I'm not just talking about a virgin giving birth, or an angel greeting the shepherds, or three wise astronomers acting in faith by following a star to the sight of a newborn baby in a manger.  These are wonders for sure, but the greater mystery is this:  Why?  Why would God, who doesn't "need" anything from anyone, especially from his created beings, do such a thing?  Why does God, who has always been, enter into human history, and while remaining God, take on human flesh? Why does Jesus Christ, Emmanuel (which translated means God-With-Us), the Divine Logos, the long awaited Messiah prophesied of again and again and again in the Old Covenant, [Isaiah 7:14 is just one example] the only begotten son, the second person of the Holy Trinity, deign to be born in a cave, amongst animals and lay in their food trough? 

The answer:  The Mystery of Love. 

It is this mystery that Christ's mother pondered [it] in her heart. [Luke 2:19].  I must say again, as I have said in another post, that I cannot even begin to imagine what the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos as we call her in our Church, must have been pondering, wondering, hoping.   To know all these tremendous things about the child you just bore and that it is your responsibility to raise Him!  It is for good reason that the Orthodox Church in every generation of its 2000 years has called her blessed. [Luke 1:48] 

And so dear readers, while we are still celebrating in these days, let us not forget the mystery that now rapidly begins to unfold before us, the mystery of the Incarnation of God.   As I heard one Orthodox Christian priest once say,  an Incarnate God is truly the only acceptable God.  A God that takes on our humanity, lives among us, is a suffering servant and ultimately dies a humiliating death, is the only God that can possibly make sense.  Otherwise, God is an uncaring, seemingly capricious tyrant.  I agree.

    “ Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”


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