Today in Orthodoxy we begin the Nativity Season. Of course, in Orthodoxy the season begins with a fast that lasts 40 days and 40 nights. All around us, cultural Christmas is gearing up its shopping season with sales, Christmas decorations and sweet treats. We are supposed to stand with Christ.
St. Mark the Ascetic writes:
The Lord is hidden in His own commandments, and He is to be found there in the measure that He is sought. (The Philokalia, Kindle Loc. 3420-21)
Looking to gift wrap, presents, festal deserts and Christmas decorations will not help us find Christ. He is hidden in His commandments. So we need to seek the Gospel commandments of Christ to find Christ this Christmas season. He will be found in those commandments to that degree that we seek Him. If we seek first the Kingdom of God, we will find Christ first. If He is last on our list, He will be hard to find.
If we believe He is Lord, we will seek His commandments to do His will, and then we will find him. To keep His commandments, we have to know what they are and where to find them. Time to read the Gospels and go to church. This is the first day of the Nativity Season and Fast. We are just beginning the search.
As St. Maria of Paris said on the verge of World War II, living as a Russian refugee in France having fled the Bolshevik revolution :
“... we must not allow Christ to be overshadowed by any regulations, or even any piety. Ultimately Christ gave us two commandments: on love for God and love for people. There is no need to complicate them, and at times to supplant them by pedantic rules. As for Christ, he is not testing us at present by our deprivations, by our exile, or by the loss of our accustomed framework. He is testing us – when we find ourselves deprived of our previous living conditions and our way of life, when we are granted our awe-inspiring freedom – to see whether we can find him there, where earlier we had never thought to seek him.” (Pearl of Great Price: the Life of Mother Maria Skobtsova, p 73)