For weeks leading up to the Feast of Christmas, the Church has been singing the hymn “Christ is Born; Glorify Him. Christ is come from Heaven; Encounter Him!” Now that Christmas has arrived, everything is reading for our encounter with Christ. The only thing that remains is for us to accept the invitation and have a real living encounter with Christ, not just on Christmas Day, but every day.
Each year on the Sunday before Christmas, the Church invites us to recall a long list of names which represents the human ancestry of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is much more than just a list of names, as the names call our mind to a long history of God’s prefect timing to rescue his people. Whether it be Adam in the Garden or Noah and the flood, God has never abandoned His people. Always at just the perfecting timing, He comes, and He will come again, to save us. (see complete transcript below)
Christmas is now just days away, and many of us are frantically scurrying around town doing our best to get all our preparations for Christmas moved from the “to do” list into the “I’m finally ready for Christmas” list. There’s only one thing missing. Many, if not all, of us have forgotten our spiritual preparation for Christmas, the feast which St John Chrysostom called, the Queen of Feasts.
As Orthodox Christians living in America, we are faced daily with the reality that the average Christian doesn’t distinguish between denominations other than by name and location, except in the way they worship on Sunday morning. It seems to me, the average American Christian is just looking for a Sunday experience they enjoy, one that makes them feel good about themselves, and one that lifts them up. However, if you take the time to look deeply, we are all quite different, and the way we worship on Sundays is a reflection of what we believe.
Each year I find myself reminding people, and quite frankly becoming exasperated, about the truth of Joseph and Mary. As Orthodox Christians we teach that Joseph was a righteous old man in his seventies when he, by lot, was blessed to be the caretaker for the Panagia, the Theookos and Ever-Virgin Mary.
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When we hear about healing miracles in the Gospel, we often forget that we are speaking about much more important issues than physical illness. As Christ explains in the Luke 13.10-17, with the story of the women who had been bent over for eighteen years, “whom Satan had bound,” the Scriptures speak of spiritual illness. For those looking on, although they were not physically ill, they were spiritually ill. This is the danger when we confuse our physical health with our spiritual health.
In the Gospel we hear about a blind beggar that, although he could not see with his yes, knew he was in the presence of God. He cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Once he spoke to Christ, his eyes were opened and he could see the face of Christ. With his eyes opened, he spent the rest of his life glorifying God, and those around him believed and were saved. That what it means to be a servant of God.
When the Gospel speaks of a wealthy man who asked Christ, “What must I do to inherit eternal life,” after hearing the young rich man admit, “All these I have done since my youth,” the Gospel goes on to remind us that we each lack one thing. We can’t get to heaven depending on ourselves and upon our wealth and resources. He wants us to totally depend upon Him for everything. God doesn’t care how many rules we follow. He doesn’t care about how much money we give. He only wants us to be in Church. He wants to be “ALL IN.”