God is with us! God is with us!
Give ear, O you nations!
Be humbled, for God is with us!”
The words sung at the Great Compline ~ the prayer service before the Vigil of the Nativity (Christmas Eve Liturgy) ~ announce the joy which is Christmas. It is the news of the coming of a Savior, the Messiah, for which all Christians rejoice. What a marvelous gift, a mystery and event of such magnitude that the entire history of the world is changed forever.
Pause for a moment and consider this:
The history of the world transformed by the arrival of a tiny baby — a plan of God so amazing and actualized in such a way that is beyond all human reasoning. A plan that includes the sacrifice of cross, the ultimate outpouring of God’s love for all people, the Resurrection, and granting of new life in the Holy Spirit with Pentecost. The Nativity of Christ cannot be understood or appreciated without seeing it all; a mosaic in which all the pieces fit together to form the whole beautiful image of God’s plan. This is a plan that transcends all human concept of time and space.
In our limited vision we find ourselves at a loss to understand, and might find our words echoing a familiar refrain from Scripture: “How can this be?” How can it be is a matter of faith. In faith, we suspend our need to know, to understand, to have all the answers, and trust in what we do not know. Which is just as God would have it, trust in Him alone. “But God had made a better plan, a plan which included us.” [The words from Hebrews 11:40 read at the Vigil Liturgy]
This is the timeless gift that God gives us in His mercy and desire to bring all to eternal life. This is the perfect gift that has no equal. No product or act of human creation can approach God’s gift to us, and we deceive ourselves if we believe otherwise. This is a gift freely given, but ours to receive, if we so choose to live in relationship with Christ Jesus.
In Christmas, hope becomes reality.
God comes to us.
God lives among us.
God is With Us !
Christmas is the fulfillment of all the prophecies of the Old Testament. The long wait is over. God takes on humanity to save humanity. The words chanted in the Liturgy on Christmas Day:
I see a strange and marvelous mystery, heaven is a cave; the cherubic throne, a Virgin; the manger has become the place in which Christ the incomprehensible God lies down. Let us praise him and extol Him.
We celebrate Christmas on December 25. Our Orthodox brothers and sisters celebrate on January 7. The world puts an end to Christmas on December 26th, but our celebration is different.
When we keep Christ in our hearts and minds in the days following Christmas, we are proclaiming that we are different. We do not follow what the world wants us to be. We are more. We become a visible sign to others of who and what we are, just as God came to us as a visible sign. But if we are not careful, we might become caught in the rush to hide away any of what we celebrate as no longer relevant, and in our haste to clean it all up, totally miss the special holiness of this time.
The time of Christmas celebration is a time to enjoy the peace experienced on Christmas and in the post-festal period. (December 31 is the official last day of the post-festal period in the Byzantine rite). But our celebration of “God with us” and our journey in Christ continues onward with Our Lord’s Circumcision on January 1 and following that to the major feast of Theophany. Theophany is another manifestation, of Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River – celebrated in our Eastern Catholic Churches on January 6.
God comes to us when all is calm, all is bright (we are enlightened) as the words of the familiar carol. No one can do it for us, that is, to experience God. We can, when we create even small amounts of time for quieting our lives. We can find God in many ways, such as sitting quietly for a few minutes being open to the Holy Spirit, talking to God in prayer, slowly reading Scripture, finding an inspiration in a spiritual book, or just pausing in the middle of the day and being aware of God and saying thank you.
All that God in the form of a little baby really wants from us is basic, but it is a challenge – to offer our love as a gift in return. How will we show that love? We may be assertive in many daily life events, but are we equally courageous to allow ourselves to grow in relationship with God? Are we willing to rethink what faith means to us? Or make an effort as we do in other things? Can we rise to the challenge that Jesus makes to every person? Or are we resigned to risk it all and accept status quo.
Do not celebrate everything else and miss the best gift of all.
Christ lives in you – be alive and renewed by the gift you have been given!
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
Slide Show (click on any photo to open)
Great Compline & Vigil of the Nativity, December 24, 2017
Do not forget to venerate our beautiful Nativity Icon on entering and exiting our church. Pause to find the events of Christ’s birth depicted in this icon present on the tetrapod.
A Traditional Slavic Christmas Carol:
Angels from heaven came to you shepherds; Have no fear! Have no fear! Hasten to honor Him, born near in Bethlehem; Offer gifts, though poor and small.
There in a manger, you will behold Him, Son of God, Son of God. Child whose humility, veils his Divinity, our true Savior, Christ the Lord.
Merry Christmas from the parishioners of St. Michael and St. Nicholas parishes!