Keeping Christmas: Being Bad or Good

Sermon notes 12/3/2017 – preparing for Christmas

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Focus on one idea from the Gospel lesson:  Luke 18:18-27
Jesus tells the rich ruler: “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the rich man heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich

While we tend to assume that the rich man became sorrowful because he was being asked to give up his wealth, but his grief arises immediately after Jesus tells the rich man to follow Him.

All of us who are at the Liturgy have received the invitation from Christ to follow Him.  This is for us the very meaning of Christmas, it is time for us to follow Christ.  And just like with the rich man, it is possible that the thought of following Him might cause us grief because we too might not want to have to give anything up.  Jesus said we cannot serve God and mammon/money, yet many American Christians think that we can.  We want prosperity in this world – at no spiritual cost – AND we want the Kingdom of God in the afterlife.  We imagine we can pursue all that this world has to offer now, and then, only much later in life should we think about the Kingdom of God, because we will in any case still inherit the Kingdom no matter how we lived on earth.  But the rich man in today’s Gospel realized he had to choose between the two and he wasn’t willing to make that sacrifice.

We can think about St. Paul’s comments in Ephesians 5:1-21 to get a sense of what St. Paul thought following Christ meant.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

St. Paul uses the phrase “to walk” several times in this passage.  To follow Christ is to walk with Him.  We are to walk in love, walk in light and walk in wisdom.  We are to imitate Christ who taught us:  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  (John 13:34-35)

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Christmas means to imitate Christ.

But fornication and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints. Let there be no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting; but instead let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

According to historians, there were pagans in the First Century who really admired the Jews and the Christians for their morality, especially their sexual morality.  There was plenty of sexual freedom in the Roman Empire, especially for those who had money.   They could have whatever sex they could afford.  And yet, some were attracted to the restraint and purity of Jews and Christians.  Sexual freedom and license did not give the philosophers the ideal human.    Some Hellenic Philosophers called for sexual restraint as a way to a more spiritual life.  These folk were attracted to Christianity.   Sexual license did not lead to human fulfillment.   People admired the Christians because their morality was stricter than societal norms.  People didn’t say: “Look at those Christians, they sin more than we do, let’s join them.”  Rather, they looked at the Christians and noted their self restraint and willingness to sacrifice and deny the self, and they were attracted to the self denial and self giving.  They saw the Christians who were willing to die for the faith, to die in order to preserve their moral purity.  AND Christianity grew.

Kristin LIn Sigrid Undset’s wonderful trilogy, Kristin Lavransdatter (for which she won the Nobel Prize), the young Kristin leads a sheltered Christian lifestyle in rural 14th Century Norway.  As a teenager she wants to break tradition and choose her own path in life.  She is sent to a convent where, wanting to justify her own (mis-)behavior, she ceases to see the Gospel as establishing a norm of behavior and instead begins to compare herself to the sinners living around her.  She is able to justify more and more of her own misbehavior by comparing herself to others (“I’m not as bad as some…”) while ceasing to compare herself to Christ, the Virgin or the Saints.  As her standard of comparison falls, so does her own morality.   She feels ever more justified in judging others while justifying herself, losing completely any foundation for moral thinking.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  (John 8:12)

St. Paul teaches us to follow Christ, means to follow a standard in moral behavior, especially sexual behavior.

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not associate with them, for once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret; but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.

St. Paul teaches that being a Christian means not only seeing the Light, but becoming the Light.  Jesus said to His disciples: “You are the light of the world…”  (Matthew 5:14).

St. Paul doesn’t say, “once you were in darkness…”  but rather “once you were darkness“.  Being a Christian means moving away from darkness in any and all of its forms, and moving into the Light and all its manifestations.  To follow Christ is not merely to see the Light, but to participate in it, to become the light.

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To follow Christ is a transformation from darkness to light, to live the morally pure life.

Therefore it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.

Christ is going to give us light – we can receive it from Him.  First we have to awaken.  It is not the Light which awakens us, but rather once we spiritually and morally wake up, only then can we receive the Light.

The days are evil – St. Paul writes this in the 1st Century.  Believers have always felt this way about the world we are trying to navigate through.  Evil times are not something new.  The world is not becoming evil, evil has been with us since the beginning of Christianity.  But we are not to despair because of this, but rather are to make “the most of the time“!

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.

Folly is a sin.   We need to be mindful of that.

Drunkenness may be socially acceptable and popular entertainment, it may be the most common way to deal with stress or to celebrate success.  It is not approved behavior for the Christian.

Christmas means walking with Christ, which means walking in the Light, being the Light, instead of cursing the darkness.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”   (John 1:5)

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And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  (John 3:19)

I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.  (John 12:46)

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The Incarnation, Christmas, The Nativity

Through the years as I was blogging, I sometimes gathered all the posts related to a particular theme from a given year into a PDF.  If you are interested in finding quotes from the Fathers or other Orthodox authors related to the Nativity of Christ, Christmas or the incarnation, you might want to glance through the PDFs listed below.  These are posts I used either during the Nativity Fast (Advent) period or following the Feast of the Nativity itself.

Twelve Quotes for Christmas

2010 Christmas Blogs

2011 Christmas Blogs

2012 Christmas Blogs

2013 Christmas Blogs

2014 Christmas Blogs

2015 Christmas Blogs

2016 Christmas Blogs

Mary: A Spiritual Heaven

Theologically, Christmas is a Feast of the Incarnation of God, something which is easily lost in all the cookies, parties, gifts, decorations, piles of wrapping paper which have come to dominate the celebration of the Nativity of Christ.  For those Christian who take time to find that place of holy silence (“Silent Night, Holy Night!”) there is still the ability to be awed and overjoyed by the mystery of God entering into the human condition.

Toward the beginning of the Nativity Fast, we Orthodox celebrate another theological Feast: the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple on November 21.  It is another day for us to contemplate the mystery of God incarnate by focusing on the human side of the equation: God became human so that the human can become God.  The incarnation as God chose to do it, required a human mother from whom God received His human nature.  God does not miraculously manufacture a completely novel, virginal and sinless human nature for Himself in the incarnation – to protect Himself from being tainted by sin and the fallen world.   No doubt God could have done that.  Instead, God enters into the human condition as all humans do – through conception in a mother’s womb, growing through gestation and then being born into the world.  He receives human nature from his mother including  genes and flesh – all that makes us human.   Christ has a fully human nature including a body made up of cells and organs which formed in the womb.  Jesus, who is fully God, becomes fully human.  As St. John says it: “the Word became flesh...”

God dwells in the Virgin‘s womb, and this mystery is the inspiration for many feasts, poems, icons and hymns in the Orthodox Church.  God who dwells in heaven also dwells in the Virgin’s womb.  Her womb becomes heaven, for heaven is the place where God dwells.

One of the hymns from the Entry of the Theotokos states it even more intriguingly:

Heaven and earth rejoice, beholding the spiritual heaven, the only Virgin without blemish…

If heaven is the place where God naturally dwells, the Virgin becomes “the spiritual heaven.”  She is not the “natural” heaven which is distinguished from the rest of creation in Genesis.   God makes use of a human to create a spiritual reality.  In fact it is not possible without her.   A human, a human body, becomes a “spiritual” heaven.  This is a most wonderful turning of a phrase.  And it reflects that reality of the incarnation and of theosis:  God becomes human so that the human can become God.  We might think “heaven” is a spiritual place, but God creates an additional spiritual heaven in order to dwell on earth with us humans.

In another hymn from the Entry of the Theotokos, Anna (Mary’s mother) tells Mary:

Go into the place which none may enter: Learn its mysteries and prepare yourself to become the pleasing and beautiful dwelling-place of Jesus

Again, the wonderful turn of a phrase – Mary is told to go into the place where none can enter – the Holy of Holies of the Jerusalem Temple.  But there is a mystery here, for if none can enter, then Mary can’t enter and if Mary can enter than it isn’t the place that none can enter. Lines are being crossed and blurred – which is exactly what happens in the incarnation of God the Word.

Mary is told to go into the place where God dwells in order to prepare herself for God dwelling in her. (see also The Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple  2017)    The mutual indwelling of Mary (and thus humanity) in God and God in Mary (and thus in humanity) is realized in the Feast of Christmas.  This is the very concept of salvation in Orthodoxy.

Theophany: Better Than Christmas

Americans love Christmas.  For American Christians, Christmas is the biggest holiday of the year.  And yet, in the ancient Eastern Christian tradition, Christmas is surpassed as a Feast by Theophany.  Here is a hymn from the prefeast of Theophany (for January 2), which certainly touts Christmas as a great feast, but one which is surpassed by the events of Christ’s baptism.

The Feast which Passed is radiant,

But the one to come is brighter still!

There the angel proclaimed glad tidings,

But here, the Forerunner prepares the Savior’s Way!

There blood was spilled, as Bethlehem was made barren,

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But here the life-giving water gives birth to many children.

There the star revealed You to the magi,

But here the Father proclaims You to the universe.

Incarnate Lord, coming to be made manifest, glory to You!

The Feast of the Circumcision of Christ

In Luke 2:20-21, we learn of the circumcision of the baby Jesus.  The story confirms His humanity, which is essential since we in the Church say Jesus is our Lord, God and Savior!  It is God in the flesh who humbly submits to circumcision.  God became incarnate in order to humble Himself.  Luke reports the event, quite simply:

“At that time, the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.  And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”

 

The circumcision of Jesus, would be unremarkable, and routinely Jewish, except for the claim that Jesus is God incarnate.  God does not ask His people to do anything that God is not willing to do Himself.  The Torah commanded circumcision for male children, even God in the flesh endures the ritual for our salvation.  God humbly submits Himself to being human.

Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic comments:

“On the eighth day after His birth, the divine Child was taken to the Temple and duly circumcised according to the Jewish Law that had been observed from the time of Abraham. At this time He was given the name Jesus, the name announced to the most holy Virgin by the Archangel Gabriel (Luke 1:31). The Baptism of the New Covenant was prefigured in the Circumcision of the Old Covenant. The Lord’s Circumcision shows that He took true human flesh upon Himself, not its semblance as heretics later taught of Him. The Lord was truly circumcised, desiring thus to fulfill all the Law, which He Himself had given through our forefathers and the prophets. Fulfilling all the ordinances of the Law, He superseded them by Baptism in His Church, for, as the Apostledeclares: ‘In Christ Jesus neither circumcision avail any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature’ (Gal. 6:15). (The Prologue from Ochrid, p 15)

The Nativity and The Resurrection

All of the Orthodox Feasts are in one way or another connected to the Resurrection of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.  St. Ephrem the Syrian writing in the 4th Century says:

“Two utterances that were different, have I heard from him, even this Isaiah.  For he said that a virgin should conceive and bring forth (Isaiah 7:14); and he said again that the earth should bring forth (Isaiah 45:8).

But lo! the Virgin has brought Him forth, and Sheol the barren has brought Him forth; two wombs that contrary to nature, have been changed by Him; the Virgin and Sheol both of them.

The Virgin in her bringing forth He made glad; but Sheol He grieved and made sad in His Resurrection.”

(Hymns and Homilies of St. Ephraim the Syrian, Kindle Loc. 1898-1901)

The Holy Innocents

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.”  (Matthew 2:16-18)

As we continue the days of Christmas and our celebration of the Nativity of Christ in the Orthodox Church, we encounter the horrible story of King Herod slaying the innocent children because he feared among them might be a king who would take his throne from him.

We remember this in the Church because the Church remains realistic – the world is what it is.  The world is not paradise or heaven, yet God endeavors to break into the world as it is, to reunite us to Him, to reunite all of creation with our Creator.  In the Orthodox Church we encounter these hymns about the slaughter of the Innocent Children.

Today the evil king searches for the hidden treasure;

He kills the blameless innocents.

Rachel weeps for the beloved of her breast

And will not be comforted

Seeing their bitter slaughter and untimely death.

May she behold them playing in the bosom of Abraham,

And be consoled in her lamentations.

The ultimate wish of the hymn is that Rachel will see all of these innocent Jewish children in Abraham’s bosom, numbered among the righteous of God.  The expression of this hymn, which reflects Orthodox theology and dogma, is important.  These children were all Jewish, unbaptized, never having believed in Christ, never having heard the Gospel, never having kept Torah or Orthodox Tradition.  Yet all are saved and given life in heaven.  God’s mercy and salvation extends to the innocent whomever they may be.

The mothers of the Holy Innocents weep.
The mothers of the Holy Innocents weep.

The lawless king searches for the King of the Ages

Who has entered time.

He is not able to discover or destroy Him,

And so harvests a multitude of blameless infants.

Innocents are made martyrs,

Citizens of the King on High,

Whose dominion shall be forever,

And the raging madness of Herod shall be destroyed.

God is merciful even when humans are not.  God accepts the lives of innocents who die, and blesses them, granting them eternal life in heaven.  It is why we Orthodox invoke the memory of the Holy Innocents when we proclaim our pro-life position.  We believe all the victims of abortion are holy innocents, martyrs whom the Lord embraces even if the world did not.

 

He Who Holds Creation in His Hand

Looking at one of the liturgical hymns from the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, we see themes that are obvious throughout the Christmas cycle of services.  The hymns from the Orthodox services for the Nativity are heavily theological focusing on the lessons the Ecumenical Councils derived from the Scriptures and God’s revelation in Jesus Christ.

The hymns teach a Trinitarian God, one person of the Trinity – God the Word – became incarnate as Jesus on earth,  this incarnation restores the proper relationship between God and humanity, between heaven and earth, between material creation and the spiritual life, in fact it restores all proper relationships in God’s creation with the Creator and between humanity and the rest of creation.

Today, He who holds the whole creation in His hand is born of a Virgin.

[In most of the Orthodox Feasts of Christ we encounter hymns that keep the events of Christ’s life in the present: “TODAY, the Eternal One, the Creator does …..”  Liturgically, we enter into the event being celebrated, today, and that event is made present in our lives, today.  When the Eternal One enters time, time is transfigured and no longer truly has a past and a future.  It is the eternal now, always accessible to believers.  Jesus is the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity who became incarnate in time in our world.   This is the central mystery of faith: God brings creation (that which is “not God” into  existence and then God enters into and becomes “not God” simultaneously lifting creation (that which is “not God”) into union with God or making us God.  “God became human so that humans might become God,” as St. Irenaeus said.  The incarnation of God means the theosis of humans.  It is God who blurs the lines between divinity and humanity, yet the Three Persons of the Trinity are not changed by this, nor is anything added to the Trinity.  Each of us retains our human personhood, and we do not disappear into divinity.  Rather, divine love transforms our relationship with our Creator, making all things new.]

He whose essence none can touch is bound in swaddling-clothes as a mortal man.

God, who in the beginning fashioned the heavens, lies in a manger.

[The hymn repeats the central truth and mystery in several ways.  God has become incarnate as a little child – this is the mystery and revelation of Christmas.]

He who rained manna on His people in the wilderness is fed on milk from his mother’s breast.

[Orthodoxy believes the many manifestations of God in the Old Testament were actually encounters with the pre-Incarnate Christ.  It is the pre-Incarnate Christ who appeared anthropomorphically to the Israelites.  Christ who performed the miracles of the Old Covenant history now enters into history as a babe born of the Virgin.]

The Bridegroom of the Church summons the wise men;

The Son of the virgin accepts their gifts.

[Christ as God not only interacted with the Israelites in their history, as co-Creator of the universe, Christ has been interacting with all people on earth.  God’s Word has been known in one form or another by all people.  This knowledge of God’s Word was often in shadows or known only darkly, but that knowledge even is made clear for those who find Christ.  The hymn acknowledges that it is Christ Himself, One of the Holy Trinity, who summoned the Magi to seek Him and worship Him.  As God, Christ summons the Magi.  As the incarnate God, still a baby, He accepts the gifts offered in homage to Him.]

We worship Your birth, O Christ.

Show us also Your Holy Theophany.

[In the Church, as important as the Nativity of Christ is for the salvation of the world, it is also part of the great mystery of God revealed in and through Jesus Christ.  The Trinitarian nature of God becomes manifest at Christ’s baptism.  The Theophany is the full revelation of Christmas.]

Christmas: Becoming Truly Human

When we did the Vespers of Christmas on Friday evening (December 23), the very first hymn from the “Lord I call upon You…” verses really caught my ear as it seemed to capture so many of the theological lessons of the Feast of the Nativity.

Come, let us greatly rejoice in the Lord,
as we sing of this present mystery:
the wall that divided God from man has been destroyed;

[In Ephesians 2:13-16, St. Paul refers to the “dividing wall”: “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.   But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ.  For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end.” (Emphasis is mine and not in the text)  

2nd Temple

 For St. Paul, we Gentiles especially were separated from God – we did not have the Law and we fell under the power the demons whom we spiritually served.  But Jesus Christ ended that separation and we in Christ have been made part of God’s people.  Certainly if one studies the layout of Herod’s Jerusalem temple, we get the visible, physical sense that there was a wall (several!) separating the Gentiles from God.  St. Paul says, and the hymn certainly picks up this theme, that any “wall” which had separated us from God is abolished.  Whatever wall had been built to divide Gentiles from Jews or humanity from God is destroyed by Jesus Christ.  In its place, we have been built into a living temple.   So new construction took place – the dividing wall was demolished and now we are built as the walls of the temple – nothing separates us from God for God abides in us His temple.  In St. Paul’s day, he would have known of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.  Christ Himself replaces that demolished temple.  Christmas celebrates the removal of all walls and divisions between God and humanity!   We have access to God, to God’s Kingdom, to heaven where God abides. (Sadly, at times in Orthodox thinking the “dividing wall” gets rebuilt and seems to be preferred – iconostases and doors and curtains are built some say to make us feel our exile from God.  Laity are separated from clergy by such walls.  We recreate walls separating Orthodox from Jews and non-Orthodox Christians.  Men and women are separated, as are monks from the rest of the laity.  We would do well to consider what our Nativity hymns tell us about the complete elimination of such walls.)   Almost all of our Feasts of Christ and the Theotokos have in one form or another a theme of the dividing wall being torn down  – heaven is opened to us, the Holy of Holies is opened to us, Paradise is opened to us.  God is united to humanity, heaven and earth are joined together.  If theosis is true, there are no walls separating us from God, nor would any baptized Christian be separated from any other.]

the flaming sword withdraws from Eden’s gate;
the Cherubim withdraw from the Tree of Life;

[In Genesis 3:24, as a result of the sinful disobedience of Adam and Eve, God expels them from Paradise and creates the dividing which prevents our immediate return to Paradise.  “God drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.”   According to our theology, in Christ the gate to Eden is opened to us again – the Cherubim no longer prevent us from accessing the Tree of Life.  Christ’s cross is the Tree of Life and all baptized believers have complete access to Paradise and eternal life.  No walls of any kind separate us from God, the Holy of Holies , Paradise or Heaven.  Neither should we rebuild what God destroyed!]

and I, who had been cast out through my disobedience,
now feast on the delights of Paradise:
for today the Father’s perfect Image,
marked with the stamp of His eternity,
has taken the form of a servant.

[Christmas is the “today” on which “I” and every “Adam” and every Christian experiences the Paradise which had been denied us because of sin.  The Law just ended up building a bigger wall between humanity and God, since humans proved incapable of keeping the Law.  It is the Word of God becoming incarnate, taking on human flesh, in Jesus Christ which unites us to Heaven.  It is not our doing – we can’t attain Heaven by perfectly keeping Torah or Tradition.  It is not a matter of our trying harder – pray more, fast stricter, repent more deeply, attend more and longer services.  It is Christ in His person who heals and saves us.  We are gifted with salvation – we put on Christ in baptism and thus receive union with God.  We continue to experience that salvation in and through the sacramental and liturgical life which inspires us to the moral life.  Nothing separates us from God, there is no more exile.]

Without undergoing change He is born from an unwedded mother;
He was true God, and He remains the same,
but through His love for mankind,
He has become what He never was: true man.
Come, O faithful, let us cry to Him:
“O God, born of the Virgin, have mercy on us!”

[As the early Christians said it, “God became human so that humans might become God.”  The first part of this is the Nativity of Christ!  The incarnation makes theosis possible.  The Theotokos is the true sign of this salvation.  God became that which is “not God” – God became human to lift humanity up to union with divinity.  This is what God has wished and worked for throughout history since the time of the sin of Eve and Adam.]

The Nativity of Jesus Christ our Lord (2016)

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Kingdom of God is revealed in the birth of Jesus Christ.  That is what is at the heart of the Christmas story, and is the focus of the Church’s celebration of Christmas.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.  (1 John 1:1-3)

The apostles proclaim to us what they saw, heard and touched – the Kingdom of God present in this world in Jesus Christ.  We too can encounter this same Kingdom:

Hear it – in the: carols, hymns, Gospel, mirth and joy of the Feast

See it – in the:  icons, the Church, your brothers and sisters, generous charity of the season, giving and receiving of gifts

Touch it  – in the: body of Christ the church,  body and blood of the Euchartist, all the surroundings of the church and even in nature itself

Taste It –  in the: Holy Communion, bread, wine, the festal meal

Smell it –  in the: incense, pine needles, baking, cooking

Feel it – in the: love of family and friends, the beauty of the Feast

All we do and have at Christmas is a way to rejoice in the Lord, to proclaim His Kingdom and to experience His love for us and our love for one another.

We experience the Kingdom of God in and through:

Our Body – physically, materially

Our Heart not just our ears

Our Mind not just with our eyes.

In the Church, in our liturgical celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, we join those shepherds, who not only heard about the Nativity, but who said:

“Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”   (Luke 2:15)

We fully experience the incarnate God.  We don’t just hear about Christ, we enter into Him in Baptism, receive Him into our hearts in Communion, and stand together in His presence in the Liturgy.  We enter His Kingdom and He comes and lives in our hearts and our homes.

Christ is born!  Glorify Him!

May you be blessed this Christmas by our Savior.  Have a safe and holy Nativity Feast and a blessed and peaceful New Year.