Born to Share His Divine Life with Us by Grace: Homily for Christmas in the Orthodox Church

Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!

Galatians 4:4-7; Matthew 2:1-12

      We gather today to celebrate the birth of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ for the salvation of the world.  No matter how often we have heard them, the details of His Nativity remain shocking.  The Child Who was born in a cave that served as a barn and had an animal’s feeding trough for His crib is fully divine and fully human.  He did not arrive with worldly power or wealth, but as the Son of a transient Jewish couple who lived under the military occupation of the Roman Empire.  When a wicked king wanted to kill Him, the family fled for their lives as refugees in Egypt.  From infancy, those who worshiped the false gods of this world saw him as a threat. If we want to enter into the holy mystery of Christmas, we must allow ourselves and our world to be called into question by the Lord Who became one of us as a vulnerable baby born in dangerous circumstances.

The eternal Word Who spoke the universe into existence has humbled Himself beyond our understanding in order to heal every dimension of the human person, in order to make us all participants in His divine and holy life by grace.  He is born of His Virgin Mother to make us sons and daughters who shine brightly with the divine glory.  He has united divinity and humanity in His own Person for our sake.

We do not celebrate today the birth of yet another false god who gives some worldly power over others or of a sadistic judge out to make us miserable with fear and self-loathing.  No, this great feast commemorates the arrival of a Lord Who lived as He was born:  with humble, self-sacrificial love for the blessing of all.  He is not a Savior for only certain groups of people according to worldly standards, but for all who bear His image and likeness.  All people stand equally in need of the healing that He brings, for He is the New Adam Who sets right all that has gone wrong with the children of our first parents.

His coming is good news for all in ways that were and are contradictory to the usual ways of the world.  Both foreign astrologers and a group of lowly shepherds played their roles at His humble birth.  This Jewish Messiah ministered to a Samaritan woman with a broken personal history, cast demons out of Gentiles, and praised the faith of a Roman centurion.  He healed the sick, restored sight to the blind, and raised the dead.  He showed mercy to public sinners and outcasts, and identified Himself with “the least of these” in society.  He was rejected by the respectable religious and political leaders of His day. He turned the other cheek to His enemies and prayed that the Father would forgive them.  He inaugurated a Kingdom that is not of this world.

In order to embrace the good news of Christmas, we must gain the spiritual clarity to see that every human person is someone for whom the Savior was born.  He has taken on our common humanity so that all people may be united with Him in holiness.  In every condition and circumstance, and at every stage of life, all bear the dignity of a living icon of God.  The Savior has made that clear by becoming one of us and sanctifying every dimension of human existence from the womb to the tomb.  We must relate to neighbors, strangers, and enemies accordingly, if we claim any part in Him.  However we treat even the most fragile, needy, and despised people we encounter is how we treat our Lord.

In His birth, the God-Man has lowered Himself in order to raise us up to the dignity from which we had fallen.  He takes on all our brokenness in order to heal us.   He is born to share His divine life as He restores and fulfills every dimension of the human person in the image and likeness of God.  That is the gloriously good news of this great feast, and it extends literally to all.

Because Christ is born, we must embrace the holy dignity of the children of God in even the most broken aspects of our lives.  Because Christ is born, we must learn to see and serve Him in all our neighbors.  Because Christ is born, we must seek first a Kingdom not of this world as we reject the false gods that have taken root in our hearts.  We must celebrate His Nativity not only in this service, but by actually living as those who have welcomed the Savior from the depths of our souls in every thought, word, and deed.  This is not a matter of sentimentality, but of conforming our character to Christ’s as we cooperate with His gracious purposes for the healing of our souls and the salvation of the world.  Jesus Christ became a human person so that we might become nothing less than “partakers of the divine nature” by grace.  Let us celebrate this great feast by doing precisely that.



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