Once again we all are blessed with this joyful occasion of Christmas. Let us thank almighty God for giving us the chance to sing with the Angels the eternal hymn: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.”(Luke 2:14). “Behold, the virgin shall be with Child, and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.” (Matt.1:23).
Emmanuel (Immanuel) is the name for Jesus which means ˜God with us”. Christmas celebrations should lead us to virtue and righteousness and God will indeed be with us.
Our heart and soul should seek the incarnate Christ and hence prepare ourselves for ˜God to be with us.” In our perception, Christmas is a celebration just for us human beings, this is not true. The birth of Christ is the celebration for everything and everyone in the universe. Heaven and Earth, Angels and Humans, Cattle and Birds, Shepherds and Kings, local people and foreigners, manger holders and inn keepers, stones and trees are all celebrating the birth of their creator. Everyone has their own contribution towards the birth of our Lord as a human being.
Angel Gabriel was assigned to proclaim the heavenly message. “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people” (Luke 2.10).
St. Luke narrates the story of the heavenly host of angels who announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds in the fields; it was to this group of people, tending their animals that the angels of light, joy and beauty first declared, the great and good news “A saviour is born, rejoice, rejoice!” In our tradition and belief, the Holy Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, is given supreme position at the birth of Jesus Christ. The doctrine taught by our early holy fathers says that Mary lived a sinless life, and that as mother of Jesus Christ, she became the God-bearer, or Mother of God or Theotokos. “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”(Matt. 1:20-21). Joseph was a gentleman, humble enough to listen to the voice of God, even in a dream. In the society where Joseph and Mary lived, having a child before marriage will lead to the death of the woman by stoning.
Joseph never abandoned Mary or judges her integrity and dignity, but he was compassionate to accept God’s words and take care of Mary and the child. Always act with compassion, be open to the mystery of God, listen for the voice of God, in whatever medium God chooses to speak; and then act.
Wise Men from the East came to Jerusalem to adore the Child. They acknowledged the presence of The God, The King and The Man by presenting him with gifts that symbolized his Prophetic, Kingly, and Human nature.
Shepherds were considered low profile sect in society because they did a low key job; they looked after animals and lived in the fields. But the great message of the birth of our lord is first delivered to them by the holy angels. “A saviour is born, rejoice, rejoice!” They made known to others what they had seen, and all who heard them were amazed at what the shepherds said.
The shepherds were transformed; they became messengers, they became angels, for the original meaning of the word ‘angel’ is messenger. This shows the importance of those who we ignore in our society today. Luke’s Gospel encourages us and tells us that if shepherds can become angels, then there is hope for each one of us to become angels, witnessing how God’s grace transforms the world. Bethlehem in particular and the world in general eagerly waited for the one who would “smash the yoke that burdened the people, and the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster” (Isaiah 9:3).
The earth and nature welcomed the arrival of the Saviour with great splendour. Several of Jesus’ teachings have direct implications on environmental issues. Human dominion over nature (Gen 1:26, 28) should be exercised for the good of creation and not for selfish exploitation that leads to the destruction of nature. The earth we live in belongs to God (Matt 11:25; Ps 24:1), and humans will be judged on the condition in which they return God’s possessions (Matt 25:27).
Interdependence is key in the Christmas narrative. God counts on human cooperation in His incarnation, Mary depends on others at the time of the birth of her son Jesus. Joseph is directed by the angels and the wise men are guided by a star, a symbol of nature. Open our hearts to love and to see that all people are made in the image of God, to care for creation and establish life in all its amazing diversity. We have an ethical responsibility towards the world. A moral connection to the world means that we have to care and nurture the planet. We care because God loves this creation, God is part of this creation, and our love for God is the basic motivating factor in our all endeavours.
We all know that the present day financial crisis is worldwide and the most vulnerable are those who are left to carry most of the burden. The Child of Virgin Mary expects us to resist this with all our spiritual power. This can only be through the grace of the one who, though he was rich, for our sake became poor, took birth in a manger; though created everything, became helpless with the helpless so that he might uplift us all through his abundant mercy and grace.
I end with the word of St. Ephrem from his madrashe on Nativity, “Blessed be the Child Who today delights Bethlehem. Blessed be the Newborn who today made humanity young again. Blessed be the Fruit who bowed Himself down for our hunger. Blessed be the Gracious One who suddenly enriched all our poverty and filled our need. Blessed be He whose mercy inclined Him to heal our sickness.”
Christ is Born! Glorify Him! May God Incarnate take us by the hand, surround us and renew us with his love, light, and grace. May He, bless us with his peace and joy this Christmas and in the year ahead.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Mathews Mar Thimothios Metropolitan