The Prince of Peace Is Born to Restore Us to Paradise: Homily for the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ in the Orthodox Church

Galatians 4:4-7; Matthew 2:1-12

       Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!

We gather today to celebrate the Nativity in the Flesh of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ for the salvation of the world.  He is born to fulfill the vocation of every human person to become like God in holiness as “partakers of the divine nature” by grace.  Because He has truly become one of us, every dimension of our life in this world may become a point of entrance into the blessed peace of the Kingdom of Heaven.  In contrast with that high calling, the lack of such peace in our world, our relationships, and our own hearts should be quite apparent.

His birth occurred in a part of the world under the brutal military occupation of Rome, which required the elderly Joseph and the pregnant Theotokos to take a long and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem for a census. There He came into the world like a homeless child, born in a cave used as a barn with an animal’s feeding trough for His bed.   And since the wicked Herod wanted to kill the Messiah from His birth, the family had to flee for their lives to Egypt. They had as little peace as refugees today who barely escape with their lives in the middle of the night from bloodthirsty tormentors. Atrocities like those committed by Herod still continue around the world with tragic frequency.

When the One Who spoke the universe into existence becomes part of His creation, the tension between the way of the Lord and the path of slavery to the fear of death becomes obvious.  Angels proclaimed His birth and the promise of peace not to those who stopped at nothing in dominating others, but to lowly shepherds who had no power or prominence.   Though the Messiah was expected to be a new King David, Gentile astrologers from Persia traveled far to worship a Lord Whose Kingdom transcends the divisions of empires, nations, and ethnicities. The God-Man is born to restore all to the blessedness of Paradise as the New Adam.  He comes to heal us from every dimension of the brokenness that still leads Cain to slaughter Abel, from the desires of our hearts to how we engage with our neighbors, society, and world.   He comes to make us radiant with holiness and “perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect,” which is shown especially in love for our enemies.  (Matt. 5:48)

The Savior born this day is the Prince of Peace, but not of the illusion of peace that comes from beating down those we fear and resent until they do our bidding.  He is the Prince of Peace, but not of the illusion of peace that comes from satisfying our self-centered desires as we neglect the needs of others and refuse to see them as living icons of God.  He is the Prince of Peace, but not of the illusion of peace that comes from projecting our hopes for wellbeing on the success of any agenda that operates according to the standards of a world enslaved to the fear of death.  Christ’s peace is nothing less than sharing in His life to the point that we become those who will be blessed in His Kingdom:  the poor in spirit; those who mourn their sins; the meek; those who hunger and thirst after righteousness; the merciful; those who acquire purity of heart; and the peacemakers. To know His peace is to become so much like Him in holiness that, regardless of what persecution and slander may come our way, we make even the deepest challenges of our lives points of entrance to the joyful blessedness of His Kingdom.  (Matt. 5:3-12)

Even as the circumstances surrounding His Nativity were not peaceful by conventional standards, welcoming the Prince of Peace into our lives requires embracing the inevitable tension of mindfully entrusting ourselves to Him as we come to share more fully in His fulfillment of human person in the image and likeness of God.  That is not a matter of sentimentality or using religion to achieve any worldly goal, but of responding with true spiritual integrity to the gloriously good news that the Son of God has become one of us for our salvation.  The more that we undertake the struggle to do so, the more we will participate personally in the true peace of Paradise that the God-Man is born to share with us as “partakers of the divine nature.”  Let us celebrate this glorious feast by doing precisely that every day of our lives.







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