The pre-Christmas hymns from the Menaion for December 22 present a variety of themes which help “flesh out” the incarnation for us.
The first hymn takes up the theology that Jesus Christ is both the Word and Wisdom of God.
The all-creating and sustaining life;
the boundless wisdom of God,
has built a house for Himself
of the pure Mother who knew not a man.
Vesting Himself in the temple of the body,
Christ our God has been greatly glorified.
In the hymn, first we encounter Wisdom building Himself a house who turns out to be the Theotokos. Second, we see Jesus “vesting” Himself “in the temple of the body.” The God who is indescribable, ineffable and incomprehensible becomes visible in Christ. God had created humans in His image and likeness, and in Christ we see most clearly this image now become flesh. God the Son not only took on flesh, but gave flesh to the image of God.
In the hymns, the theology of the incarnation is fleshed out completely. The implications of the Nativity in the Flesh of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ for how Christians are to live is not as commonly described in the hymns, so such hymns stand out.
Fulfilling the commandment of love,
let us be brothers in deed and truth.
Let us make peace with one another;
let us learn together the wisdom of charity.
Christ the Giver of peace, brings good will to men,
saving those who sing,
Praise the Lord, all works of the Lord!
Exalt Him throughout all ages!
The third hymn which is also sung during Holy Week as we contemplate the Mystical Supper on Holy Thursday, invitingly calls us to enjoy the Master’s hospitality. In Orthodoxy, we sometimes seem to forget the Incarnation and the Eucharist both are the Lord’s Hospitality freely, generously and graciously offered to us. God completely gives Himself to us and shares the divine life with us – not grudgingly or under compulsion. God does not give us tiny particles of the Kingdom which we must fear because they are so sacred. God gives us eternal life and all His omnipotence. He freely shares all with us, and when we try to hoard the divine gifts, or deny them to others, or hide them from others or rejoice that we have them and others don’t, then we do not share in the life, spirit and graciousness of God – we lose the spirit of the Nativity Feast. Christmas is our invitation to share God’s love and salvation with the world.
COME, O FAITHFUL,
LET US ENJOY THE MASTER’S HOSPITALITY:
THE BANQUET OF IMMORTALITY.
IN THE UPPER CHAMBER WITH UPLIFTED MINDS,
LET US RECEIVE THE EXALTED WORDS OF THE WORD,
WHOM WE MAGNIFY.