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Is the feast of Nativity simply Christ’s birthday?

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December 13, 2017

Is the feast of Nativity simply Christ’s birthday?

It’s that time of year again where many of us are filled with joy and happiness and we are mesmerized with all the lights and decorations that ornament our streets and our homes. Some of us have snow and ice, others have palm trees and sand. Regardless, we all know that Christmas is right around the corner. Now for all Christians, we celebrate the birth of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. For others who do not share our faith, it’s a holiday none the less!

 

Let’s not get things confused here, for us as Christians, this is not merely an annual birthday party for our Lord. We don’t come together as a Christian community and ask the Lord to blow out his candles! No not at all! The birth of our incarnate Lord means so much more to us than simply his “birthday”. So today we clarify a few things and we put the emphasis where it belongs. We ask the question “Is the feast of the Nativity simply Christ’s birthday?”

Let’s jump right in and find out.

What does it mean to say that the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, the Word of God, was born?  Or better yet, what does it mean to say that He became human, or as the Church teaches us, was incarnate? Let’s take a moment and try to assess how monumental this idea is.

St Paul in the book of Philippians, chapter two describes this great mystery of the incarnation by stating the following:  

 “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.”  [Philippians 2:5-7] 

Notice how he explains this idea by stating that Our Lord did not “consider it robbery”. What does that mean? Well what St Paul is saying is that the Son of God was willing to take on all the we are in the flesh for the sake humanity, and that this Eternal Sacrifice of lowering himself to become like us was well worth it in His eyes. St Paul says he took the form of a bondservant; imagine that! The Master of the universe, the Eternal Logos, Word of God who created all things, was willing to subject Himself to the laws of created beings – and why? For us and for our Salvation!

 

In the creed that we pray, we emphasize that everything that the Lord has done is for us and for our Salvation. And his incarnation, his becoming man, His birth from the Holy Theotokos, was all for us and for our Salvation. 

Listen to what we in the creed:

“We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-Begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten not created, of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made; Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy spirit and the Virgin Mary and became Man.” [The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed]

Therefore, when we celebrate the great feast of Nativity, it’s not merely a matter of celebrating the Lord’s birthday, we are celebrating this great mystery of the incarnation which was revealed to us through the birth of Lord Jesus Christ.  

 

Now the incarnation within our Orthodox faith, truly changed the course of all creation. It literally changed everything. The incarnation was the solution that God had in mind to restore man once again to His first estate that humanity may come to know God all over again. Therefore, this feast to us is a reminder of all that God initiated to bring us back to His glory.

St Gregory the Theologian expresses beautifully in his 38th Oration:

“This is our present Festival [i.e.: Nativity]; it is this which we are celebrating today, the Coming of God to Man, that we might go forth, or rather (for this is the more proper expression) that we might go back to God— that putting off the old man, we might put on the New; and that as we died in Adam, so we might live in Christ, being born with Christ and crucified with Him and buried with Him and rising with Him.” [St Gregory the Theologian – Oration 38 – On Nativity/Theophany]

 

We rejoice because of the Lord’s incarnation. And even more so, we rejoice because the Incarnation is a testimony of the Love that God has for humanity.

St Athanasius of Alexandria is the author of one of the most fundamental texts in patristic writings, it is called “On the Incarnation of the Word”; in it he explains God’s plan for salvation and how the Incarnation was in essence the cornerstone of this salvific plan. He goes even further to explain that the incarnation of the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, was God’s expression of love toward His creation.

Listen to how he presents it:

“it was our sorry case that caused the Word to come down, our transgression that called out His love for us, so that He made haste to help us and to appear among us. It is we who were the cause of His taking human form, and for our salvation that in His great love He was both born and manifested in a human body.” [St Athanasius of Alexandria – On the Incarnation – 1.4.

 

This great feast then my beloved is a witness to God’s love for humanity. It testifies that we have a God in heaven who would not leave is in a state of darkness and ignorance but rather when we could not come up to Him, He came down to us and how, in all humility and lowliness, He was willing to become as frail and as vulnerable as a newborn infant.

This Nativity, let us remember that we celebrate not only the Lord’s birth, but ultimately His compassion, His sacrifice, His humility, and His love for us all. He took on what is ours – this flesh, this body, this life – so that in return He may give us all that He is.

 

Remember know your faith, live your faith and teach your faith

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