by Fr. John Abdalah
As Orthodox Christians, we greet one another with this confident exclamation during the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord. With this seasonal greeting we affirm that Jesus, who took on flesh and was born into our world, is indeed the Christ, and worthy of glorification. This greeting is unlike other seasonal greetings about being merry (Christmas), glad (tidings), or happy (holidays). Not that I have any trouble with being merry, glad or even happy. I enjoy a spiked eggnog or a traditional Christmas shot of whiskey or arak as much as the next guy. But there is more to the preparation and celebration of Christmas than that. In this feast we celebrate our salvation through the good news of our Savior's advent. When we greet each other with the news of Christ's birth, we seize the opportunity to glorify the new born Savior. This greeting carries within it the promise of salvation, and the very meaning of life.
We will not escape the secularization of this feast. We will not change the marketing of goods, the office parties and the exchange of gifts. We will not avoid the need to spend money we may not have, eat too much or party ourselves silly. But with a little work to understand God's revealed truth, we can transcend and baptize the now secular images to bring us deeper meaning. I offer the following examples of what I mean: Let every twinkling light on every bush and window remind us that Christ is the Light that brings us from darkness into light. Every light can bring us to him who is Light, just like the star that guided the Magi. Every light can remind us of the Christ child who enlightens us with Divine truth. This is the truth that sets us free. He is our light and our resurrection, the light of truth that will guide us from the manger to the empty tomb. This season of Christ's birth is ultimately the season of salvation.
Let every sale in every department store remind us of how God loves us more than the world can understand. The retailers draw us in with sales so that we will come and shop with them. How much more does Christ draw us close? Christ took on flesh to call us home to Him. He suffered at the hands of his own creation, humiliated and murdered. This is the epitome of love. Every retailer, every jingle, every commercial can remind us of God's own love for us.
Let every seasonal party remind us of the Joy of Salvation. To save us Jesus voluntarily came to take on flesh and suffer in his body. His sacrifice and his gift are reasons to celebrate. When we celebrate, we can remember all that God accomplished for us. We can remember His nature of love and mercy.
Let every Santa on the street collecting money, or posing for photos with children, remind us of the gifts God has given us and the opportunities God gives us to share with others. Think too of the example of St. Nicholas who taught us to fast, share our resources and love God with fervor.
Let every gift we present to one another remind us of the gift of life that Christ is for us. Christ gives us life as we are born anew into Him. Remember also that the Eucharist is life-giving and is given in his name.
Let every snowman, made of ice or styrofoam, remind us of how cold the world can be and how we need the warmth of our Savior. The world needs your example, your love and your witness in order for it to be warmed by God's love.
Let every ribbon and bow on every package remind us how Christ has put Satan in bonds and freed us to love him and stay with Him. He who was born in a manger is He who could not die and defeated Satan in Hades.
Let every Christmas carol and seasonal song, remind us that we are called to praise God from the depths of our beings. Our soul wants to call out to Him who created us and who comes to us in this feast as a baby. Sing out, and let God hear your voice. Sing out and let others hear your testimony God has taken on flesh and dwelt with us as the prophets foretold. This is a time to sing out!
Perhaps you could add to my list and share your illustrations with our readers. Take a few moments to write down some secular images that you think can be given new meaning and send them to The WORD. By reading them next year, others may find practical ways to use secular images to be less distracted, and to focus more on the real meaning of this Holy Season.
In this issue we have blended some uplifting messages about Christmas. You will also find an article for St. Ignatius Month, delivered by one of the members of the Order. The busy Communities in Action section testifies to how active our local parishes are. Their activities bear witness to the Christ born to us. Christmas comes at the end of the secular calendar. It is for us more than the end of one year and the beginning of a new year, and now a new century. It is for us a call to rededicate ourselves as we make God our Lord, and call him our Savior. Rededicated to Christ, let us charge boldly into the next century. Let us not be ashamed to proclaim that Christ is Born! Glorify Him! He is our God and we are His people.
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
From Word Magazine
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America