The Center for Family Care of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Today God came unto sinners; let not the righteous man exalt himself over sinners!
Today the Most Rich One became poor for our sake; let the rich man invite the poor to his table!
Today we received a gift which we did not ask for; let us bestow alms to those who cry out to us and beg!
The present day has opened the door of heaven to our prayers; let us also open our door to those who ask of us forgiveness!
Today the Godhead placed upon Himself the seal of humanity, and humanity has been adorned with the seal of the Godhead!
-St. Ephraim the Syrian
Some 2000 years ago, the pre-eternal Son of God mystically entered the world as a newborn. The modest scene of his birth in a manger in Bethlehem, in certain respects, was similar to that of many babies. He was bathed, swaddled, and fed. His family received visitors bearing gifts for the Child. The nature of the gifts offered, however, points to an extraordinary event! Gold, frankincense, and myrrh—symbols of Jesus Christ’s divine and human natures indicating His being as King, God, and Lamb. In His Incarnation through the Holy Spirit and the agreement of the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ accepts every human trait—including subjection to death—for the salvation of the world.
As we enter into the season of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’s Nativity, we pray that our hearts would be fitting mangers—containing the Christ Child to experience the true joy and peace that comes from His birth. Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
Shopping for Jesus: Nothing Wrong with Re-gifting!
While many ‘celebrate’ Christmas, is Christ Himself at the forefront of the festivities? Is His coming into the world—with all of its magnificent consequences—pondered, bringing joy into the hearts of those who confess Him as Lord? The period can easily devolve into an annual excuse for lavish get-togethers and opulent gift exchanges—basically, celebrations of hollow excess. When we confess, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16) we understand that any gift-giving during the season should be in the spirit of God’s never-ending philanthropy. Anything we ‘give’ was first given to us from God.
Therefore, we are simply re-gifting the blessings we’ve received! Like the Magi, we are also to offer gifts to the Savior in ways particular to our capabilities—remembering the family member, the friend, the stranger, and—especially—the least of our brethren through loving gestures of prayer, goodwill, and material generosity. Christ tells us, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” (Acts 20:35) and in reflecting His love at Christmas, we give back to His Church, His people, and His creation, offering ourselves as loyal subjects of Him—the newborn King! At the Vesperal Hymns of Christmas, we hear:
What shall we offer you, O Christ?
Who for our sake appeared on earth as a human?
Every creature made by you offers you thanksgiving,
The angels offer you a hymn,
The heavens, a star,
The magi, gifts,
The shepherds, their wonder,
The earth, its cave,
The wilderness, a manger,
And we offer to you a Virgin Mother.
Together, make a list of all the things that God has blessed your family with. Consider how you can use these gifts to give back to Him this Christmas season. This can involve using your time, talents, and treasures as loving, humble offerings on behalf of Christ the Lord. So what will you give?
~Website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA), https://www.goarch.org/-/celebrating-the-nativity-as-a-family.