Jesus the God-man

While American Christians tend to focus sentimentally on the human elements of the Christmas story, ancient Christianity traditionally focused more on Christ’s Nativity story being the incarnation of God the Word.  Thus the story of the birth of Christ was read theologically as the literal way to read the Gospel lesson.  Theodoret of Cyrus (d. 457AD) commented:

“St Paul writes, ‘With a view to recognizing the mystery of the God and Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:2-3).’  He brought out the mystery of the dispensation common to the Father and the Son; and he said all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ, since through him will be revealed to all people in the future life the purpose of the dispensation.”   (Hill, Robert Charles, Theodoret of Cyrus:  Commentary on the Letters of St Paul, Vol 2, pg 91)

“Hidden” in the birth of Jesus Christ is the fact that He is God.  Of course, the incarnation is a revelation of God, but it also reveals that God is so much more different than we commonly think.  For the Christmas story reveals God as Trinity, and God who is able to become human in order to redeem His creation.  In more recent times St. Nicholai Velimirovic (d. 1956 AD) wrote:

This means that man experiences and finds out about the fundamental eternal truth of life and the world only with the help of the God-man, in the God-man.  And it means something else:  man learns the complete truth about man, about the purpose and meaning of his existence only through the God-man.  Only in him, in the all-merciful Lord Jesus, does man, tormented by earthly tragedies, find the God who can truly give meaning to suffering, the Comforter who can truly give comfort in every misfortune and sorrow, the Defender who can truly defend from every evil, the Saviour who can truly save from death and sin, the Teacher who can truly teach eternal Truth and Justice.  The first truth of Orthodoxy is that man does not exist for the sake of man or, more fully, for the sake of the God-man.  In Him alone is an understanding of man’s being possible; in Him alone is a justification for man’s existence possible.  Everything that does not have that Person is not Orthodox.  Everything that does not have the God-mans’ Justice, Truth, Love, and Eternity is not Orthodox.  Everything that wants to carry out the God-man’s Gospel in this world through the methods of the kingdoms of this world, is not Orthodox, but implies enslavement to the third temptation of the devil.”   (Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich, The Struggle for Faith, pgs 96-100)

 

Isaiah’s Foretelling of the Messiah

 Sermon from 12 December 1993

Gospel: Luke 14:16-24

A long time before the Messiah was born, in fact almost 750 years before the birth of the Christ, a prophet of God told the nation of Israel that they would be a light to the Nations of the world. This Prophet, named Isaiah, told them that they would be God’s salvation to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 49:6).

Now this prophecy that Israel would be a light to the world and the salvation of the nations, came at an unsual time. For while Isaiah was telling the people of their unique role in history, they were in the Process of being conquered by the Assyrians. Isaiah was prophesying that Israel would do something great for the entire world at the same moment that Israel was being defeated by its enemies.

But that seems to be how God often works His plan of salvation. In the midst of what seems total defeat, and humanly impossible to salvage, God works out His plan for the salvation of the world.

And God’s plan for salvation does not require that He have on His side the people with the most money, nor the nation with the biggest army, nor the people who think themselves most important, nor most enlightened, nor most progessive.

God’s plan for the salvation of the world is in no way based upon human merit. God is not controlled by human merit and does not have to respond to it. For God is a sovereign Lord, whose Goodness is not derived from the good behavior of his subjects. Rather God is good, loving and gracious in His own inner being, and He acts according to His nature, not just in response to our good and bad behavior.

We learn of God’s true loving and grace-filled nature in the story of the Exodus and in the story of the Cross, for in both cases God loves us even when we are not very lovable. He saves us despite ourselves.

Today, our Lord told us a parable about a banquet which he had prepared and for which he had prepared a people. However, those prepared for and invited to the feast, declined to come. These people are all too busy with their own lives, problems, concerns, dreams and prosperity to take time to come to the feast which has been prepared for them. And so others are invited to the feast, and these others are not a very attractive lot, they are outcasts, and handicapped and homeless. They do not deserve an invite to such a great banquet, but they are welcomed into the feast.

Brothers and Sisters, God prepared for Himself a people to come to His feast, but many have turned away from this invitation in order to pursue their own interests in life. You and I are the ones who have chosen to accept the invitation of the Master. We should be forever humbled, grateful and thankful for this invitation, because we are the outcasts and misfits of the parable. We are here only by God’s grace, not by our merit.

We are here because somehow we know, somehow we believe, somehow in the depths of our hearts we hope that this invitation, this eucharistic banquet, this Christian way of life, in fact fulfills all of the hopes and dreams of our hearts. Somehow we understand that it is not pursuing our own private dreams that will give us fulfillment in this world. Those who have tried this in the past ended up outside of the banquet. Our hearts are to be set on the kingdom of God. For this Kingdom is the sole source of happiness for the entire world.

The birth of Jesus Christ brings revelation to us about what is true and what is important and what is worth living for and what we should pursue with all our hearts and minds. And that deep and abiding happiness which can never be taken away cannot be found in a Mall, nor under a tree nor in Santa’s sack.

As St. Simeon prayed in Luke’s Gospel: (Luke 2:29-32)

“Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.”

Whether we can understand this or not, Christianity is not the abolition of our dreams, but rather their fulfillment. In faith and in love, we can experience that fulfillment with thanksgiving at this altar, at every liturgy, at every feast.