The Shocking Humility of Christ’s Birth: Homily for Christmas in the Orthodox Church

Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!

          The glorious feast of Christmas is finally here, and what a mysterious blessing it is.  For the Eternal Word of God becomes a human being–as helpless a babe as was ever born—with a manger for His crib. Angels sing in His honor.  The lowly shepherds and the foreign wise men worship Him.  A young virgin becomes a mother, not simply of a Son, but of the Son of God.   And kings tremble, for this baby brings to earth a Kingdom not of this world.
          The good news of Christmas is that Jesus Christ is born this day, not to judge or to destroy us, but to save and bless us.  He is the Second Adam in Whom the diseased decay of the first Adam is healed.  By becoming one of us, He brings us into the life of God.  We are made holy, we are fulfilled, we are raised to life eternal in Him.
       Our Lord brings His great joy to the world humbly and peaceably.  He does not arrive in the earthly splendor of a king, with the military power of a conquering general, or in the material comfort of the rich. Instead, He takes the lowest, most vulnerable place for Himself:  born in a cave used as a barn to a family that lived under the oppression of the Roman Empire and the cruelty of Herod.  Soon Joseph would take the Virgin Mary and the young Jesus to Egypt by night, fleeing for their lives from a wicked, murderous king.      What a difficult, lowly way to come into a dark and dangerous world, not unlike how refugee children are born in parts of the Middle East, Africa, and other war-torn regions to this very day.
          But when we pause to consider the glory of our Lord’s Incarnation, we should not be surprised at all.  For what does it mean for the Immortal One to put on mortality?  What does it mean for the One Who spoke the world into existence to become part of that creation?  What does it mean for the King of the universe to become subject to the kings of the world?  It means humility and selfless, suffering love beyond our understanding.  For our Lord, God, and Savior is not a rational concept to be defined, but a Person Who shares His life with us.   So that we could enter into His life, He entered into ours, sanctifying every bit of what it means to be a human being,  literally from the womb to the tomb that could not contain Him.
          The wise men show us how to respond to the unbelievably good news that God has become a human being:  they worship Him.  Let us follow their example this Christmas season by worshipping Him as we open ourselves to the glorious transformation that the Incarnate Son of God brings.  For Christ is born, and the peace and joy of God’s kingdom are ours even as we live and breathe in the world as we know it.  Christ is born, and we encounter Him in every human being, especially the poor, needy, and outcast.  Christ is born, and we participate in the eternal life for which we were created in God’s image and likeness. 
          Yes, this wonderful news really is true.  And the only limits on the blessing of Christmas are those that we place on ourselves.  For the One Who comes as a humble, meek, peaceable baby in a manger never forces us or anyone else.  He is the Mystery of Love made flesh for our salvation.  If we accept Him, we must become participants in the deified humanity that the God-Man Jesus Christ has brought to the world.  We must live in this world in ways that reflect the deep truth of the Incarnation.  We must become living icons of the good news of this season.   
          So this Christmas, let us be like Mary the Theotokos who received Him with joy, like the elder Joseph His steadfast protector, and like that strange combination of lowly shepherds and Persian astrologers who first worshipped Him.  Let us welcome Him into our life and live accordingly, for now nothing but our own refusal can separate us from His love.  That, my brothers and sisters, is the good news of Christmas.       

Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!

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