Daily Meditations

The Thirty-Eighth Day of Christmas Advent. What Shall We Offer You, O Christ?

The Church’s liturgy of the winter festal season speaks not only of the hospitality which the Son of God comes to give to His people. It tells also of the hospitality which He hopes to receive from them when He comes. The songs and hymns of the services call the faithful to welcome God’s Son, to accept Him, to greet Him, to go forth to meet Him.

The most wise Lord comes to be born,

Receiving hospitality from His own creatures.

Let us also receive Him,

That this divine Child in the cave may make us His guests

In the paradise of delights!1

Not only are human beings who are made in God’s image and likeness called to prepare the Lord’s coming and to welcome Him into the world which He made, but all of God’s creatures are invited to join in the reception of their Master. The liturgy proclaims that the whole of creation necessarily participates in the incarnation of its Lord, and that without this active and voluntary participation, the Master literally could not come.

The incarnation of God’s Son is a cooperative effort. It is a collaboration between the Creator and His creatures. It is a synergy between God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit on the one side, and all of the angels and animals and elements on the other, with human persons at the center as the main mediators between heaven and earth, being those for whom the world was made and to whom it is given. There can be no coming of the Son of God, no incarnation of the Divine Word, no birth of Jesus unless everyone and everything cheerfully and gratefully join into the act. This is not only true “physically” in history, but it is also true “mystically” in our spiritual lives.

One of the beloved songs of the Orthodox Nativity season is sung at vespers on Christmas eve. Those who are familiar with the liturgy, especially the children who are just becoming aware of its beauty and power, often wait for this hymn and rejoice when they sing it for it tells in the most touching way of the all-embracing participation of creatures in the Creator’s coming.

What shall we offer You, O Christ,

Who for our sake has appeared on the earth as a man?

Every creature which You have made offers You thanks.

The angels offer You a song.

The heavens, their star.

The wise men, their gifts.

The shepherds, their wonder.

The earth, its cave.

The wilderness, the manger.

And we offer You a Virgin Mother.

O Pre-Eternal God, have mercy on us!2

How wonderful it is to contemplate the celestial and cosmic cooperation involved in the coming of the Lord. And how significant it is to see what we humans have to offer. We provide the earthly mother without whom God’s Son could not be born as a man. This is the Church’s dogma.

The Orthodox Church teaches that it is unreasonable, impious, and even blasphemous to think that God could choose just any woman to be the mother of His Son or that the Lord could be born without, or even against, the free and voluntary cooperation of the one who bore Him. Or, even worse, that He could simply “choose a womb” from which to be born “as water passing through a pipe,” as some early Christian heretics claimed in their misguided zeal to defend the sovereignty and power of God “who does whatever He wills.” It is rather considered to be the greatest glory of creatures that they all give thanks to God in a manner appropriate to their being by providing the conditions for His becoming one of them Himself. Little did the three young men in the fiery furnace of Babylon realize to what glory creatures were to come in the Messianic age when they called all to bless the Lord and to praise and exalt Him forever.3 And little did any child of Adam and Eve realize to what glory human beings would come when one of their own, called the “new Eve,” would become truly “Theotokos” by giving birth to a man who is the divine Son of God.4

The songs of Christ’s birth, and perhaps even more so, as we shall see, those of His baptism in the Jordan, repeat the theme again and again in many different ways. All creation participates in the Lord’s appearance on earth. And all creation participates in the saving sanctification which he brings.

With the shepherds and angels

They prepare the way of the Lord.

The star shines brightly;

The cavern is radiant.

The wise men come with gifts;


Come, O Bethlehem,

Anoint the holy manger,

For the Master comes to you,

Sanctifying your wood with His own divinity.5


The families of the nations

Offer glory and praise.

The wise men come with gifts;

The shepherds watch in the fields,

Joyfully preparing the way.


Your hills and mountains,

You plains and valleys,

You rivers and all creation,

Magnify your Lord

Who comes for your sake to be born.6


Give good works to the manger of our souls, O Lord,

That with faces bright and shining

We may sing to You who comes to be born:

“Bless the Lord, O works of the Lord!”7


~Adapted from Thomas Hopko, The Winter Pascha: Readings for the Christmas-Epiphany Season

1 Matins of the first day of the prefeast of the Nativity, December 20.

2 Vespers of the eve of the feast of the Nativity, December 25.

3 Dan 3:57-90 LXX; “The Song of the Three Young Men,” verses 35-68, Common Bible. For the Orthodox, this song is part of the canonical scriptures of the Old Testament, and so, part of the Bible. In Western editions of the Scriptures it is printed in the Old Testament Apocrypha.

4 Very early in Christian tradition, e.g., in the writings of Saint Irenaeas of Lyons who died about 200 AD, Mary is called the “new Eve” because she heard the good angel and obeyed God who sent Him, thus becoming the “birthgiver of God” (in Greek, Theotokos), who is truly the “mother of all living” (see Gen 3: 20) .

5 Matins of the second day of the prefeast of the Nativity, December 21.

6 Vespers of the third day of the prefeast of the Nativity, December 22.

7 Compline of the second day of the prefeast of the Nativity, December 21.


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