Neither Distant nor Remote, but Truly God With Us: Homily for the Nativity of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ 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.  We do so in the midst of the sorrow, difficulty, and uncertainty brought on by the global pandemic.  If our celebration were merely a sentimental time of good feelings, it would be little more this year than a passing distraction from problems well beyond our control. Our Lord’s Nativity provides, however, not a momentary escape from reality, for it manifests reality itself and invites us to enter into the healing of our humanity in God.

If we are tempted to think that He is somehow remote from or unconcerned with our brokenness and pain, we need only look to the conditions in which the Son of God was born in order to be delivered from such delusions. We may have heard the story so many times that the details are no longer shocking. The One Who is fully divine and fully human was born in a cave that served as a barn, and He had an animal’s feeding trough for His crib. He came into the world like a homeless person as the Son of a transient Jewish couple forced by the occupying Roman authorities to take a long, difficult, and dangerous journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  The Theotokos endured the ordeal in the latter stages of pregnancy accompanied by her elderly guardian Joseph.   Since the wicked Herod wanted to kill the Messiah from His birth, the family fled for their lives as refugees in Egypt.

In order to enter into the holy mystery of Christmas, we must allow our assumptions to be called into question by the Lord Who became one of us as a vulnerable baby born in  dangerous and humble circumstances.  Today we celebrate nothing less than the eternal Word, Who spoke the universe into existence, humbling Himself beyond all human understanding in order to heal every dimension of the human person.   He does so 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 Himself for the sake of all who bear the divine image and likeness. This feast reveals both Who God is and who we are called to become.

The Savior lived and ministered as He was born with humble, self-sacrificial love for the blessing of all.  He is not a Savior for only certain types of people according to worldly standards, for all need the healing of the New Adam Who sets right all that has gone wrong in our world of slavery to the fear of death.  Christ’s coming does not operate according to the usual ways of that world.  Angels proclaimed His birth to lowly shepherds, not to the high, mighty, and powerful.   Persian  astrologers, who were certainly not Jews, traveled a great distance to worship this Messiah at His birth.  His Kingdom is not of this world and transcends its boundaries and divisions.

In order to embrace the good news of Christmas, we must offer the most broken dimensions of ourselves to Him for healing.  Even as He entered fully into the misery of the world as we know it, we must welcome Him into the darkest challenges of our lives.  We become more fully our true selves as we participate more fully in His restoration of the human person in God’s image and likeness.  Even as He was born into a world enslaved to the fear of the death in order to liberate it, we must become living icons of what happens when people entrust themselves to the God-Man for healing.

In His Nativity, the Savior has lowered Himself in order to raise us up to the dignity from which we had fallen.  He is born to share His divine life as He restores and fulfills every dimension of who we are as the children of God.  That is the gloriously good news of this great feast, and it extends literally to all, regardless of what deep challenges and sorrows we face.  Perhaps the Incarnation of the God-Man occurred in such difficult circumstances in order to make clear that His salvation is not an escape from the grave challenges posed by the harsh realities of life.  Instead of looking for distractions from the problems of our lives, let us entrust ourselves to Him as we cooperate with His gracious purposes for the healing of our souls and for 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.






  1. Thank you again, Fr. Philip,

    Merry Christmas to you, your family, and congregation,
    and Happy New Year.

    Mark & Rhoda

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