Homily on the Nativity of Christ

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My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM!

At the Savior's Nativity, the celestial herald declared to the shepherds, "Unto you is born this day a Savior, and this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger" (St. Luke, Ch. 2). Perhaps someone may think that this is no great sign, for every new-born child is bound in swaddling. If the Angel, it could be said, had wished to prove to the shepherds that it was indeed Christ that had been born, he might have revealed some unusual portent, like the star that appeared to the Magi in the East, or the maiden in the sun, holding a child, which the sybil showed Augustus. However, if he regards with spiritual eyes the Babe wrapped in swaddling, the onlooker must certainly agree that the mystery is wondrous indeed. This Infant by His birth shed upon the world the Light of knowledge, which shines brighter than the stars or the sun. His swaddling bands are broader than the heavens, for they held Christ, the God Whom nothing can contain. Let us, then, turn our spiritual eyes to Christ's infancy, for He Who created the ages and ordained salvation for us before time began appeared on earth as a child, wishing to renew our nature, which had grown old.

There may be some who think that Christ should not have come into the world as a babe, but as a grown man, basing themselves on David's words: "He, like a bridegroom coming forth from his chamber (that is, the womb of the immaculate Virgin), will rejoice like a giant to run his course" (Psalm 18). The Angel, however, said nothing about a giant, but revealed to the shepherds that they would find a babe. If we meditate on Christ's infancy, we shall discover why the Angel did this. The Nativity of Christ was strange and altogether supernatural, unlike any ordinary birth, and His childhood was also wondrous, quite different from that of other little boys. Ordinary newborns are weak and know nothing about their surroundings. They are helpless until time passes, and they gain strength and understanding, but our Lord Jesus Christ was born All-Powerful and wise. The birth of such a babe, the Angel pointed out, is indeed an unprecedented miracle, and on this feast the Holy Church, with the Prophet Isaiah, praises His strength and omniscience, hymning Him as "the mighty God, Potentate, the Prince of Peace" (Isaiah, Ch. 9). It is said that the lion is known by its claws, and by the tips of His young claws, the Lion of Judah, was shown to be "the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in war" (Psalm 23). So great was the Newborn's power, that "Herod was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him" (St. Matthew Ch. 2). The Child could not yet speak, but already He filled with terror those who dared pronounce His name. Persecutors trembled at the thought of Him, though He was still wrapped in swaddling; the thrones of kings were shaken, but He had still not been removed from the manger.

Galen, foremost among ancient physicians, is reputed to have said that men destined to achieve fame and glory, to become great rulers or renowned generals, are distinguished from childhood by their deeds and character. Pericles, he asserted, before seeing the light of day, was startling the Greeks by appearing in their dreams, and Alexander of Macedon was called the son of Zeus and the ruler of a glorious kingdom before he was born. It was also written that while Midas, king of Phrygia, was still a little boy, ants brought grains of wheat and put them in his mouth as he slept, hinting that one day he would become master of untold wealth. Similarly, our King and Master, in His earliest infancy, clearly indicated how great would be His power and accomplishments. The gold, frankincense, and myrrh brought to Him from afar symbolized the wealth laid up for those who love Him. His troubling of Herod and all Jerusalem foretokened His triumph over death, the devil, and Hades. Angels and shepherds were stewards of the mystery of His Incarnation, and kings from the East worshipped Him, showing that authority over both the invisible and the visible is conferred upon His human nature, as He Himself says: "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth" (St. Matthew, Ch. 28). David foretold that "all the kings of the earth shall worship Him" (Psalm 71), and today we see the beginning of the prophecy's fulfillment, for three temporal kings honor the King of kings with gifts and adoration.

Augustine, prelate of the Church of Hippo, discourses beautifully on this theme, saying, "Before the waves were calmed by Thy footsteps, before Thou didst silence the winds by Thy command, before Thou didst raise the dead by a word, before the sun was darkened by Thy death, before the earth quaked at Thine arising, before the heavens opened as Thou didst ascend, before Thou didst work any other miracle, Thou didst enthrone Thyself in Thy Mother's arms, revealing that Thou art Lord of the whole world". Such strength and authority are already manifest in our Newborn Lord Jesus Christ, that even as a little babe He is known as Master, "the mighty God, and Potentate" (Isaiah, Ch. 9). Verily, God's power is "made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. Ch. 12). We discern in the small, feeble limbs of an infant the Omnipotence of Jesus Christ, Whom the Church likens to a little lamb. "The shepherds hastened as to a shepherd," she chants, "and beholding Him as spotless lamb, pastured in Mary's womb, her they hymned, and said, Rejoice, Mother of the Lamb and Shepherd" (Akathist to the Theotokos, Oikos 4). Here Christ is both likened to a lamb, and directly called the Lamb born of the Virgin. But what strength does the Lamb possess? His strength is certainly invincible, as is evident from the following. Saint John the Theologian saw in a vision beasts and serpents emerging from the seas, and out of the abysses, and from the wilderness. Their heads were terrible to behold, their jaws agape, and their bite venomous. They rose up against the Lamb, in accordance with the saying of Holy Scripture: "These shall make war against the Lamb" (Revelation Ch. 17). It might be supposed that one of the weaker beasts would straightway seize and destroy the Lamb, leaving the fiercer ones with nothing to attack, but instead their intended Victim prevails over them all, utterly annihilating the, as it is written: "The Lamb shall overcome them, for He is the Lord of lords, and King of kings". Oh, how great is the Mighty of the Lamb! The Lamb represents the Son of God; the serpents and wild animals, demons. (Source: The Great Collection of The Lives of the Saints)

(To be continued)

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"Glory Be to GOD For All Things!" -- Saint John Chrysostomos

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With sincere agape in His Divine Incarnation,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George