THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST PART 7
Among them are Savior, King of kings, Lord of lords, the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, the Christ, the Head of the Church, the Bridegroom, and Judge of the living and the dead. Just as the shining angels instructed the shepherds to go to the manger in Bethlehem, so they now instruct us to follow their example, by going to Bethlehem above and there celebrate the Feast with fear and joy! After hearing the angels, the shepherds, now filled with great joy and divine zeal, hastened to Judea to offer homage to the newborn Jesus in Bethlehem.
So let us hasten in spirit to spiritual Bethlehem and behold this wonder of wonders, with our spiritual eyes. We will rejoice in seeing the new Child as both God and man. His beauty is indescribable, His goodness is incomprehensible for from this small babe radiates the great love and compassion of God toward man. The small and helpless Child will grow and clearly demonstrate God’s unconditional love for mankind. He did not suddenly appear with a host of heavenly powers, showing His divine glory and power, and if the Disciples could not bear to look, who could bear to look upon Him? Instead he chose to come to us in a most humble manner as a small helpless child, needing to be held by His mother and nursed with her milk, clothed by her hands, and snuggled in her loving arms.
Following is a record of a few events of that time. They are important, because unlike earthly events, they are continuously celebrated by heaven itself, the abode of the Holy Trinity, and this heaven is now here before us on earth and opens for us as it did for the shepherds. The brilliance of the light seen by the shepherds, would be blinding to our physical eyes, but the spiritual light, is not only bearable but will fill our souls with joy and exultation. This divine light descends to the depths of our hearts filling them with unutterable joy. We see heaven and earth have now joined together, proclaiming glad tidings of great joy for all people. Seeing that the humble shepherds left their flock to see what has come to pass, let us follow them and lay aside our worldly cares and join with them, for we will see with spiritual eyes, the great events which have come to pass. Let us not delay, but receive our fill of the glory of Christmas, then exulting in what has come to pass, let us proclaim to everyone: Christ is born! Glorify Him!
We now let us witness the actions of the astounded shepherds:
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shown round about them, and they were very much afraid. And the angel said to them, Do not be fear, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born upon this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you: You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly hosts praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace good will to men!
And then it came to pass as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass which the Lord has made known to us.”
These humble shepherds, at once abandoned their sheep and became like sheep themselves seeking their shepherd. Proceeding toward Bethlehem they will rejoice with their Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ, and from Him they will later hear: “I am the Good Shepherd . . . I lay down my life for my sheep.” In saying that He is the Good Shepherd, the Lord also warned us sternly against the hireling or false shepherds, who do not care for the sheep but just use them, abandoning them then when the wolf comes. Who are these hirelings and false shepherds and how can we avoid them? These false shepherds are found within the Church and outside the Church. Within the Church, the hireling fails to nourish the faithful with Christ’s teaching by example and didactic means, and they often exploit their resources for their own bellies, abandoning the faithful sheep to the wolves. Outside the Church the false shepherds are those who lead their followers into erroroneous doctrine and over a steep cliff and into the deep darkness of Hades. Everyone who loves life should seek the true Christ, the Good Shepherd in the true Church, and willingly accept His yoke. He will not reject anyone, but will accept all those who approach Him in faith and hope, because he alone is the Chief Shepherd. Indeed, He is most worthy of our love and affection, and we should enthusiastically prove to Him our true love, by striving diligently to keep His commandments, as the Lord says:
“If you love me, keep my commandments.”
Why did Jesus Christ choose to be born in poor circumstances, in a cave among animals, and be laid on a manger, the feeding place for these animals? Because among the royal and wealthy there is found more corruption, while among the common people and the poor is found simplicity and humility. Christ came into the world to save sinners, not the righteous, for many consider themselves as good persons, righteous and law abiding, and yet can hardly be saved. For whoever is caught up in their own self-righteousness, cannot become humble and confess their sins. This self praise is what took place among the Scribes, Pharisees and Priests, who were so inimically disposed toward Christ, that they took part in his bringing about His suffering and crucifixion. Our Lord desires to save everyone, but not everyone is willing to humble themselves and come meekly to Christ for forgiveness of sins. Let us now contemplate the scene at the manger, beholding the great preparation, and the blessed angels and shepherds involved in this glorious event – the Birth of Jesus Christ in the flesh!
Make ready O cave, to receive the Ewe Lamb
Who approaches bearing Christ within her womb.
Receive O manger, He who by a word freed all
Of us from illogical deeds.
Keep watch O shepherds, and then
Bear witness to the awesome wonder.
Come now O Magi from Persia,
Bring forth now your gifts of gold,
Frankincense, and myrrh to the King.
For the Lord has appeared from His Virgin Mother;
Yet she bowed to Him as a servant,
And spoke to Him laying in her bosom, saying:
“How were You conceived in me?
How did You grow in me, my God and Savior?"(Vespers of St. Nicholas)