By Fr Emmanuel Stamatiou

When I think of Christmas I think of hope. For with God, all things are possible." (Mark 10:19).....Yet the Creator chose to enter the world in humility without a place to stay. His birth fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah (7:14) "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which is translated God is with us."

When I think of Christmas I think of peace. For man is reconciled with God through Christ. Through His birth the Creator unites Himself with His creation, such is His great love for us. He does not merely join Himself to what is human but unites His own divine nature to it, human and divine in one, securing our salvation through His Holy and Heavenly and Immortal Body.

When I think of Christmas I think of the wise men of the east who came with exceedingly great joy bearing gifts for the newly born infant guided by a bright star. "When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frank-incense, and myrrh. (Matt.2:10-11)

But I know that this great event, as with every event of heavenly origin, was for our benefit. For whatever God does He does for our sake. For God has no need of anything for His own fulfilment in that He is already fulfilled and perfect in every way. Therefore I know that His birth is a great sign for our life, like that bright star of the east guiding us all the way to Him to worship Him. His birth is also the opportunity of our spiritual re-birth which is made possible through Him. As the men of the east took with them the finest of gifts we too are asked to present ourselves to Christ realising that we who are lowly are the ones being presented with the greatest treasure and gift of all, eternal life.

Christmas is the occasion of God's incarnation so that by taking on human flesh the heavenly and earthly are joined. Through Christ heaven has been opened to us. The foundations of heaven have been laid here upon the earth through the birth of Christ. How can we walk on these foundations? Who shall know of them? Where shall we find them? Let us be sure that what was impossible for man is now made possible through Christ. For we know that the Church is the very foundation of heaven here on earth and the Church is the Body of Christ. And through the Church we are able to practice every aspect of the one true faith of the one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. By Baptism we are purified and joined to Christ. Christ's birth offers us re-birth through Him. In the early Church (4th Century) the two events - the feast of the Nativity and the Baptism of Christ (Theophania) were celebrated on the same day, January 6th. By Chrismation we are confirmed into the faith and granted the protection and seal of the Holy Spirit. By Holy Unction we are healed of our infirmities both spiritual and physical. By Confession we are absolved of the great weight and curse of our sins to renew the pure state granted to us at the time of our Baptism. By Holy Communion we receive Christ fully in Body and Blood for which we approach to receive by the shedding of tears (meaning with a spirit of repentance).

We are able to spiritually and physically partake of all these mysteries through Christ. Christ's power by the power of the Holy Spirit works through the priesthood by man's cooperation with God and His divine Will so that we are cleansed (catharsis) illumined (photisis) to be granted Theosis (union with God through Christ).

"From the time that Christ came to dwell with us" wrote St Mark the Ascetic (Philok.Vol. 1, 5th Century, pp 154) "man created according to God's image and likeness is truly renewed through the grace and power of the Spirit, attaining to the perfect love which 'casts out fear' (1 John 4:18); a love which no longer is able to fail, for 'love never fails' (1 cor. 13:8). Love, says St John, is God; and 'he who dwells in love dwells in God.' (1 John 4:16)

So because of Christmas, there is now a great cause for celebration and rejoicing by all humanity that by virtue of His great mercy, God has come to save His people. For we have been shown the true light which has illumined the path on which we should walk. We have only to ask and it will be given to us, we have only to knock and the door will be opened to us, we have only to seek and we will find. (Matt.7:7) God has come to dwell among His people. "Draw near to God and God will draw near to you."(James 4:8)

from The Truth, newsletter vol No 22, December 2007
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia
Parish and Community of The Annunciation of our Lady, Perth WA

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