Prayer and Spirituality: Christianity
Nativity of Jesus Christ
Let Christ in : A unique Christmas celebration in real Christian spirit based on Orthodox Ethos Christmas is the birthday (Nativity) of our Lord Jesus Christ, the most popular feast of the Christians. It is graced by all kinds of ceremonies some of which unfortunately are very secular and tend to water down the meaning and purpose of this great feast. The original authentic joy of Nativity, `Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill towards men' is absent in modern Christmas celebration. Christmas greeting cards, trees, cakes, carols, exchange of presents etc. are of pagan origin and nourished in European culture. We adopted them without knowing their background (context) and meaning. The religious significance of spiritual renewal has become of least importance and market forces dominate in our present Christmas festivity with an intention of commercialization. The English word `Christmas' is indebted to `Cristes Maesse' which goes back to its origin in 1038 A.D. It means `the Mass of Christ'. The word in the Dutch language is `Kersmis' also means the Mass of Christ. The original Latin names of Christmas are Festum Nativitatis Domini Notri Jesus Christi (the feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ) and the shorter form Dies natalis Domini (the Birthday of our Lord). The French word Noel can be explained as either from the Latin Natalis or from the word `Nowell' which means the blessed (or holy night). Similar terms' meaning `Holy Night' is used in some Slavic languages. The Lithuanian word Kaledos is derived from the verb `Kaledoti' (to beg, to pray) and has the meaning `Day of Prayer'. The Greek `genethlia and Syriac `Eldo' means Nativity as do the names for Christmas in Hungarian (Karacsong) and in most of Slavonic languages; Rozhdestvo Khrista (Christ's Nativity) in Russian and Ukrainian languages. One night in a small town of a despised region of the Imperial province of Syria, Mary, a young Jewish virgin girl gave birth to a baby boy. All history revolves around that great event which is central to the liturgy, as it is in life. Christmas, the birthday of Our Lord Jesus Christ, birthday of an era, the inauguration of a culture, the beginning of a creed, and is the foundation head of humanity's hope. The incarnation is not accidental, it was planned and executed for a purpose; the salvation of humanity. The only-begotten Son of God, begotten in eternity of the Father without a mother, was born in the fullness of time of a human Mother without an earthly father. That begetting is an unfathomable mystery of the Holy Trinity in eternity, and this is an unfathomable mystery of God's power and love for mankind in time. The greatest mystery in time to corresponds to the greatest mystery in eternity. Without probing with the light of our small understanding into this greatest of mysteries, let us content, with the discovery that our salvation had its origin not from men nor from the earth but from the greatest height of the invisible, divine world. Such is God's mercy and such is man's greatness that God the Son Himself came down from eternity into time, from heaven to earth, from the throne of glory to the shepherd's cave, solely to save man, to cleanse him from sin and lead him back to Paradise. The Lord is born in Bethlehem-the House of Bread to reveal that He is the only Bread of life worthy of true men. Repeatedly, the feast of Nativity service brings back to the point of Christ being true God and true Man. It takes us to the moment of His birth and to the moment or renewed hope of Paradise. Christ is born as a human baby and we are there to greet Him in His incarnation, to love Him actively as one present with us, to show our deepest gratitude to Him for being born of His own will in a state of true embodiment that He might be our salvation. Christ is light of the world (St. John 9:5) and eradicates the darkness. The `theejala shusrusha' is the core of Nativity service, which help us to understand that He is the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world (John 1:9) and the light shines in the darkness, and darkness did not comprehend it (St. John 1:5). Once more the darkness is dispersed; once more the light is created at church premises and shines in our heart. Let the people that sat in the darkness of ignorance now look upon the light of knowledge. The things of old have passed away; behold, all things are made new. The feast of Nativity is not only a celebration but it is a driving force. Christ `is' and not `was' born. Christ is born in our heart. There is no past tense in the miracle of this Feast. Indeed this is an essential part of the Nativity story, which is sometimes overlooked: God deals not with the people who have the power in Jerusalem. The Son of God is not born by the daughter of the High Priest or the King, but by Mary, a humble maidservant of God (low social rank). Jesus, the Son of God, was not born in a palace, but in a shabby stall in the midst of contempted people. And the Nativity is not announced to the royal court and its officials, but to the poor shepherds and wise men from the East-the simplest and wisest of this world. In our day also, those who most sincerely worship the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour are the simplest and the wisest of this world. The wise men enquired the birth of Christ at the royal palace. King Herod and the royal court were not sincerely receptive to that enquiry. When he (King Herod) heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him (St. Matthew 2:3). Hundreds of charities in Europe and America make a `Christmas Appeal' because they know that at this season most people are willing to recognize their involvement in the needs of others. They are ready to let the world in and perhaps to acknowledge how at the first Christmas the Saviour of the world was identified with the under- privileged. For He too was one for whom there was no room at the inn. He began His life with no advantage of status or wealth or material security. We are uncomfortably aware that there is so much starvation and homelessness, and do much conflict. Yet this might be bringing us past all the glamour of Christmas to the real heart of matter. For its real meaning tells something to us about the bare essentials of humanity, reminding us too while there was no glamour in the first feast of Nativity, there was certainly glory. That glory is absent in modern celebrations. The shepherds said to one another `let us go to Bethlehem and see these things that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us' (St. Luke 2:15). We ignore the invitation of the angels, shepherds and the church bells for Nativity liturgy and service and spend that time of adoration at club and parties without the presence of the "New born Babe' in our heart. Our priority goes to worldly shallow feast instead of the Eucharistic banquet, to amusement instead of divine liturgical music, to sing in praise of plum pudding, cakes, goose, minced pie and roasted turkey. A new approach, whole hearted charity for the poor and needy, concern for the under-privileged and less fortunate and spiritual renewal based on the Orthodox Ethos, is the need of the time. May
The eagerness of the Shepherds
be ours this Christmas feast.
Christmas and the Visit of Magi
Christmas and the
Visit of Magi
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