A Christmas Reflection
Once again this Christmas we celebrate the birth of the only begotten Son and Logos of God. We celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation—the mystery which has marked mankind’s history. God Himself came to live among us. “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as the only Son of the Father” (John 1:14). The birth of our Savior reaches beyond the limits of space and time and becomes present today. “Today, Christ is born of the Virgin in Bethlehem. Today, He who knows no beginning now begins to be and the Word is made flesh” (Doxastikon of the Christmas Orthros).
The word today underscores that the Savior’s birth affects and permeates the whole of history. The Eternal God entered into the limits of time and space in order to make possible our encounter with Him today. God offers to each of us today the possibility of receiving Him as did the shepherds in Bethlehem centuries ago, so that He may be born in our lives to transfigure them by His presence. The Logos of God was sent by God the Father to save us who live today from the evil deeply rooted in man and in history…From the evil of separation from God. From the prideful presumption of being self-sufficient, of trying to compete with God. From trying to take His place. From deciding what is good and evil. From being the master of life and death (Genesis 3:1-7). This is the great evil, the great sin from which we cannot save ourselves without God’s help. “O Son of God, born of the Virgin save us who sing to you, alleluia”.
The Incarnation should be considered in the light of the Paschal Mystery. Both are part of the redemptive work of Christ. Jesus’ incarnation invites us to direct our gaze to His death and resurrection. Christmas and Easter are both feasts of the Redemption. Easter celebrates redemption as the victory over sin and death: It signals the final moment, when the glory of the Theanthropos shines forth as the light of day. Christmas celebrates redemption as God’s entrance into history, His becoming man in order to restore man to God. It marks the initial moment when we begin to see the first light of dawn. Just as dawn heralds the light of a new day, so Christmas announces the cross and the glory of the resurrection. The Fathers of the Church interpreted Christ’s birth in the light of the whole work of Redemption which finds its summit in the Paschal mystery. God becomes man. He takes on our flesh to conquer death and sin.
St. Basil the Great writes, “God assumes flesh to destroy death hidden within it. Just as antidotes to poison, when ingested, eliminate the poison’s effects, and as the shadows within a house clear with the light of the sun, so death, which had dominated human nature, was destroyed by the presence of God. And as ice remains solid in water as long as night endures and shadows reign, but melts at once by the sun’s heat, so death (which had reigned until the coming of Christ) as soon as the grace of God our Savior appeared and the Sun of Justice arose, ‘was swallowed up in victory’ (1 Corinthians 15:54), for it cannot coexist with Life” (Homily on Birth of Christ, 2: PG 31, 1461).
In another text St. Basil issues this invitation: “Let us celebrate the world’s salvation and mankind’s birth. Today Adam’s guilt has been remitted. Now we need no longer say: ‘you are dust and to dust you shall return’ (Genesis 3:19), but rather: united to Him who descended from heaven, you shall be admitted into heaven (Homily on the Birth of Christ, 6: PG 31, 1473).
As we gather with our families this Christmas, may we encounter the tenderness and love of the Incarnate Logos who stoops down to our limitations, to our weaknesses, to our sins. He lowers Himself to us. St. Paul affirms that Jesus Christ “though He was in the form of God…emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians, 2:6-7). God lowers Himself to the point of being born in a manger as a prelude of His self-abasement in the hour of His passion. God’s love passes by way of a manger in Bethlehem to the Sepulcher of Jerusalem.
Let us live this wondrous event. The Son of God is born today to bring us to Himself. We are invited today (and every day) to discover the presence of God’s saving love in our midst.
The Logos of God comes this Christmas to transform our lives by the power of His love. Let us contemplate the mystery of Christ’s birth against the backup of the Pascal mystery—to the redemption won for us on the cross and the glory of the resurrection.
May we prepare ourselves to become mangers to embrace our Savior who comes today to reign in our hearts and souls.
With Archpastoral love in the Incarnate Lord,
M E T H O D I O S
Metropolitan of Boston