Daily Meditations

The Thirty-Fourth Day of Christmas Advent: THE TWO SUNDAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS (Part II)

The Old Testament Church’s anticipation of the Lord’s First Coming serves as an exhortation to the New Testament Church not to forget its anticipation of His Second Coming:

Christ has commanded those with understanding to be vigilant and to hope for His coming, for He has come to be born from a Virgin. At your second coming, O Christ, make me, who honor Your coming in the flesh, one of the sheep at Your right hand. (Triode of Compline of the Forefeast, December 20, ninth ode)

One could say the central theme of the two Sundays before Christmas is yearning for God. One saint in particular represents this longing of the Church: Simeon, the Receiver of God (feast day: February 3). He is truly a symbol of the Church, both of the Old Testament in its anticipation of the Messiah, and of the New in its joy in the Incarnate Christ. According to the Gospel (Luke 2:25-32):

There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:

“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,      

According to Your word;

For my eyes have seen Your salvation.

Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,

A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,

And the glory of Your people Israel.”

Simeon waited his whole long life to see the Christ. And as he waited, he surely yearned for that promise, wondered how it would transpire; perhaps he even doubted that it would ever come to pass. And now the promise is fulfilled, and the Son of God comes to him—not with fire and brimstone, not in storms and tempests but in the form of a baby—in tranquility and gentleness. And his response to this realization of God’s pledge is “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).

The reaction of many to the “baby Jesus” is the sentimental response of an audience at a Nativity play. But the response of the Church is that of the Righteous Simeon: a peace and fulfillment beyond words; the joyful proclamation of God’s greatness; the announcement of our salvation; and, above all, our due worship of Him as King and God:

The wise men were struck with amazement, seeing Him born as an infant in Bethlehem. Let all creation glorify Him! (Kathisma of the Nativity)

Come, all you nations, let us worship Him who is born to save our souls. (Vespers of Christmas Eve, third hymn of the Aposticha)

~Vassilios Papavassiliou, Meditations for Advent: Preparing for Christ’s Birth