“I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people:
There is born for you this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
(Cf. Luke 2:10-11)
The feast of Christmas is today! A feast of immense joy, embracing the entire world! The Angel of God brings to the shepherds of Bethlehem the cheerful Message from Heaven that will fill the entire world with gladness-both the heavenly and earthly world.
The countless hosts of the holy Angels are celebrating this event of universal joy, and with sounds of total harmony are chanting “Glory to God in the highest…” As for the shepherds who first saw this miraculous sight, they too are chanting hymns of joyful glory. However, it is not only the shepherds who first saw him as an infant and who saw him teaching later, healing the sick and raising the dead, but also those innumerable Christians who throughout the centuries, have entrusted their lives to Him.
Up to the time of Christ’s birth, men lived with the expectation that the Messiah would appear on the earth. Lo and Behold! The Savior, who people were yearning for and the prophets of the Old Testament had foretold, took upon Himself human flesh and came in the midst of His people.
And for what purpose?
The Angel explained clearly that it was for the sake of people that He who is the Savior of the entire world was born. The very same thing was proclaimed to pious Joseph, Guardian of the Virgin Mary, by the Angel: “She will bring forth a Son, and you shall Call His name JESUS (that means Savior), for He will save His people.” (Matthew 1:21).
Thus, Jesus was born from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary in order to save us. From what do we need, however, to be saved? We know very well that those struggling in a stormy sea with the waves are hoping for someone to save them. Likewise people seek a savior in such situations like being surrounded by flames in a fire, or in prison unable to pay heavy loan debts, or tormented in a caravan of refugees, or even those afflicted with painful diseases…
Salvation in such circumstances, usually come from the efforts of other people, such as organized rescue groups or caring doctors. These are people who have related gifts from God that allow them to show their solidarity with those who are suffering. However, we are in need of salvation not only from these kinds of painful conditions. There are many others, even worse than the above, from which God had to become man in order to save us, once and for all; Such as:
-Captivity by the devil, who prevailed over man after man’s disobedience and deviation from God.
-The deadly poison of sin and spiritual death.
-The fire of hell, separated from communion with God.
Christ took upon himself the form of a servant. He who is the Creator of all entered creation in order to save his own creature from the poison of the devil, the prison of sin, the waves of desperation, the fiery hell of passions, hatred and evil. He delivered us from the bonds of death, treading with his own voluntary death on the Cross upon death, and raising us up alive from the graves.
It is for all these that the faithful, “in Church gatherings”, with hearts filled by gratitude, we are chanting: “Oh Christ, you delivered us, who had become servants of the enemy and of sin”! (Ode of the Fifth Christmas Canon, Second Hymn); and “Our Savior came down for us from the high … and we who were in darkness and shadow found the truth” (Dismissal hymn of the feast day). As for the Church, She is urging the whole of creation today, “Let heaven rejoice and earth be delighted, because the Lamb of God was born on earth, granting to the world the great compassion” (Kathisma of the Christmas Matins). Furthermore we are chanting at the Laudations, “Those Righteous ones be delighted, heavens rejoice, mountains bow down at the birth of Christ
…” (Laudations, First).
My brothers and sisters, let us again celebrate this year the earth-shaking event of the Birth of Christ. This is a great mystery that our mind cannot comprehend, because God who cannot be contained in space and has neither a beginning nor end, some two thousand years ago, came down to our earth. He was born as a man and became one of our own, who saved us from all agonies; especially from the agony of destruction, corruption, and death. We are not able to explain in words the mystery of our salvation. We are delighted, however, and we are filled with spiritual joy; and together with all Christians of the earth, as well as with the Angels of Heaven, let us keep crying out ceaselessly: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will among men”.
I wish you all a Merry and Blessed Christmas.
With warm paternal wishes,
+ The Metropolitan of Pisidia, Sotirios