Dear brothers and sisters,
I greet you all with the joy of the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord, and God, and Saviour, Jesus Christ, in which we celebrate the enfleshment of God’s love in the Incarnation of God-Man who shared His humanity, earthly life and Good News with us – born in a cave and laid in the manger of dumb beasts.
We approach this feast with the shepherds and the magi, and like them we are surrounded by great darkness. But, for us it is not the darkness of the night sky, in which the magi watched the stars or the physical darkness of the Judaean night in which the shepherds watched for wild animals or thieves, but spiritual-darkness, uncertainty and fear that surrounds us.
Not wolves and lions, but a myriad of spiritual dangers and forces wait to attack us on every side, but though we may not be able to change the exterior darkness, it is for each us to choose whether to be watchful and vigilant, to seek the inner-light, or to abandon ourselves to the danger-filled blackness of the spiritual night.
Through this darkness, the Lord calls out to us, “Fear not!” and it is the Incarnate Saviour, Himself, who has become the messenger/angelos that brings the tidings of joy and true peace, possible in the hearts of the faithful, even in the most terrifying, violent and threatening of times.
It is the Saviour Himself who has become the day-star from on high, the Light of the world, guiding us through the perils and dangers, dispelling the shadows for those who seek Him and rejoice in His birth.
Knowing that He remains Emmanuel – God-with-us – we are called to rise up and hasten to Him, to bow down and worship Him, and like the shepherds and magi, to put aside everything that previously seemed important and pressing.
The magi left behind all that was familiar, secure and comfortable, in order to seek Truth, willing to face risks and dangers to arrive at the place where they would find that Truth and offer Him their gifts as they bowed down and worshipped Him.
The shepherds willingly left the light and security of the fireside and the protection of the sheep-fold to stumble through the darkness to search for the Light of the World.
Like them both, we must struggle through the night to bring whatever gifts we have, however great and noble, or more likely poor and humble – for poverty and humility are at the heart of this feast.
The Only-Begotten Son and Word of God, hid the glory of his divinity within the vulnerable body of a baby, whose extreme-humility and obedience saw Him silent and suffering on the journey to the Cross and Life-Giving Tomb, in which He was be placed in the swaddling-bands of His grave-clothes, and through which humanity received its own new nativity in the Saviour’s rising on the third day.
For, what was the meaning of this earthward ‘journey’ of the Saviour, revealed in the manger in the cave of Bethlehem? It was to storm the gates of death and hell, and to raise up fallen-Adam and the generations of his children, past, present and yet to come. It was to be born so that mankind may live, and to become man, that man might become god.
And so, through this feast Christ-God ‘leaps’ down to the Virgin’s womb, so that humanity might may leap into the heights of heaven, and as the Paschal icon shows Christ take Adam and Eve by the hand in the dark shades of hades, in His Nativity He reaches out to each of us, to take us by the hand.
Let us place our hands in His and – letting go of all that chains us down and holds us back – allow Him to lead us from darkness into the Light, and like the shepherds and magi, let us go away from this feast changed by our encounter with the Incarnate Word, illumined by Christ the true Light come into the world.
Wishing you a joyful Nativity.
In Christ – Hieromonk Mark