On the 25th of this month, we observe the Birth in the flesh
of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ.
God is the newly-born, and virgin is the Mother!
What other greater New-thing has creation ever seen?
On the same Day, we observe the veneration of the Magi.
By venerating You, O Word of God, the order of the Gentiles
Have signified the future reverence ascribed to You by all the Nations!
On the same Day, we commemorate the Shepherds who saw the Lord.
The Shepherds left their own flock
And rushed to see Christ the Good Shepherd.
To Him be the Glory unto the ages of the ages!
(Synaxarion of the Orthodox Church)
Very soon we will be celebrating Christmas which as emphasized by St John Chrysostom is the metropolis of the feasts. It won’t be long before we start wishing each other again a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Each household will once again be filled with lots of sweets and gifts for the festive season. However, let us all pause for a moment to see if we have come to understand what Christmas is all about.
Firstly, Christmas is to be seen as Christ’s entrance into this world for the salvation of the entire Human Race. When we say Christmas we actually refer to the Incarnation of God; in other words the mystery of God becoming a human being. We call this a mystery since no human person will ever be able to fully understand how it was possible for Christ our God to take on human flesh; no one will ever understand how it is possible that the eternal God became a little child. Only the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity are able to fully comprehend this marvelous mystery. All we humans can do is stand in awe before the mystery of the Incarnation and thus glorify the Trinitarian God.
It is important to have a general understanding to why God became a human being. In other words why was Christ born? There are many answers to this question, as emphasized by our Christmas liturgical hymns. They are:
*1. To restore the image which He made in the beginning
*2. To grant redemption and salvation to our souls
*3. To live with us
*4. To set Adam free from the ancestral curse
*5. To reopen the doors of paradise and grant us eternal life
*6. To destroy the wall which divided God from man
*7. To save us from bondage to the enemy
*8. To allow humans to ascend into heaven
*9. To break Adam’s ancient bonds
*10. To renew creation
The next point that needs to be raised is how can one prepare for the major feast day of Christmas? First of all we need to invite Christ into our lives this Christmas. Let us not celebrate a secular Christmas focusing only on tinsel, hampers, gifts and food. Let us go beyond this and let us cleanse and prepare our soul allowing for the infant Christ to be born within us this Christmas. In addition one may wish to consider the following points as a way for preparing for Christmas:
*1. Attend the church service on Christmas Day
*2. Receive Holy Communion
*3. Attend the sacrament of Confession
*4. Read the Gospel accounts of the birth of Christ to your children and yourself
*5. Carry out the Christmas fast
*6. Visit one who is alone either in hospital, prison or a nursing home and bring them the joy of Christmas
*7. Distribute food/toys to the needy
*8. Research the history of Christmas
*9. Decide to de-commercialise Christmas by agreeing to buy a reasonable amount of gifts this year.
*10. Explain to your children the real meaning of Christmas
*11. Take Christ seriously this Christmas.
Finally let us all ask ourselves a very important question this Festive Season: Am I giving this Christmas or merely exchanging?
On behalf of the Parish/Community of Sts Constantine and Helene I would like to wish you all a Blessed and Holy Christmas. May Christ our True God, Who was born in a manager for the salvation of the entire human race, grant to you and your families his abundant mercy.
With the sincere and humble love of Christ,
Fr Elpidios Karalis
Parish priest of Sts Constantine and Helen, Northbridge, Western Australia