THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
Part One CHRISTMAS 2012
Some say that this year Christmas doesn’t seem to be like it used to be, and upon hearing this the writer thought, I love Christmas and it becomes better every year. Why the difference of opinion? There is Christmas in the world and there is the Christmas which is the Nativity of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Christmas in the world consists of many visions of Santa Claus, Christmas trees, holly, wreaths, mangers. Christmas presents, Christmas carols, candy canes, elves, shopping lists, Christmas cards, and one horse open sleighs. The only thing missing is what this day was originally about – the birth in Bethlehem of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His being laid in a manger. Christmas of 2012 has indeed changed as the powers that be, continuously secularize the day and making certain that Jesus Christ is hidden and not brought to anyone’s attention. Let us approach Christmas as Orthodox Christians do. We begin with the prophecy of His birth from the Virgin.
"Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign; behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and you shall call his name Emmanuel (God is with us)
If such a child was to be born, let us learn as much as possible about this wonderful event that will take place. For already the prophecy has mentioned something that is unheard of in the race of man, for it is not possible for a virgin to remain a virgin after conceiving from a man! Let us look back on the parents of this virgin who will bear a child and remain a virgin. Joachim and Anna were the name of her parents, and they lived into their old age childless, but had yearned all their life for a child. They never gave up the idea as they placed their hope completely in the hands of God, whom they worshiped with all their souls, always attending temple services, while keeping all of God’s commandments.
Joachim was a rich man and divided his goods into three parts, one portion to orphans and widows, strangers and the poor, one portion to the temple and its servants and a third for himself. They were kind and gentle with hearts filled with love for God. Their life being childless saddened them but their hope was never exhausted. But then an angel appeared to Anna, telling her that she would give birth to a child, and to call her Mary, and she will be blessed above all women. She would be with her only until weaned and then serve the Lord.
When the time came she was born, and brought happiness to Joachim and Anna. Then after being weaned, being slightly over three years of age, she was brought in a procession to the temple where the High Priest, awaiting her, placed her in the inner holy of holies. Her birth is celebrated by the Church on September 8th, and her entrance into the temple on November 21st. When the virgin was brought to the temple, it was a great celebration, and she was accompanied by virgins. Placed on the third step, the grace of the Lord set upon her as she danced; all the people loved her and watched as she then ran up the steep steps into the temple, never turning back. This child who is in the hands of God, will fulfill His will to save the human race.
Mary, this most gracious and beautiful child, attended by angels, fasted and prayed undergoing education by angels. She never sinned in any way, but the Christ who was born from her would be the only sinless one. Her time in the temple was austere but filled with holiness and the resultant joy and exultation, for she realized the grace that God bestowed on her, which filled her heart with gladness. She did not know about the divine Child she would bear, who would turn the inhabited world upside down, overturning the worship of idols.
Mary’s gracious and God-filled parents visited her until their repose in the Lord. They rejoiced with awe at the part they were given in presenting as a gift back to God, their one child which God had given them. Little did they know that they would become grandparents of our Lord Jesus Christ – grandparents of God in the flesh!
Mary was constant in prayer and as she grew her countenance became more beautiful and glorious, for her inner light radiated in the temple. Every day she conversed with angels, who preserved her from any evil and caused her to abound in good things. She was far from the turmoil of daily life, and thus meditated and prayed day and night, speaking to her God and Creator with a heart overflowing in love. She was filled with pity for the human race, remembering the loss of Paradise by Adam and Eve, as she offered prayer for them. Concerning the world and its anxieties and rush to ruin, she offered heartfelt prayer for its sad condition. But she held great hope knowing that the Savior would one day come, according to the prophecies. Mary in being separated from humanity and in constant prayer and contemplation, became an example for future monastics. During this time Mary did not know what greatness she would rise to for she was being prepared to become the greatest woman ever.