The Twenty-Seventh Day of Christmas Advent: THE TWO SUNDAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS (Part I)

Come, let us faithfully celebrate the annual commemoration of Abraham and those who are with him, the fathers that lived before the Law. Let us honor the tribe of Judah as it is meet; let us praise the youths in Babylon, who, as an image of the Trinity, quenched the flame of the furnace, together with Daniel; and holding fast to the prophecies of the prophets, let us cry aloud with Isaiah: “Behold, a Virgin shall conceive in her womb, and shall bear a Son, Emmanuel God with us:” (Matins of the Sunday of the Ancestors of Christ, Doxastikon of the Praises)

Rejoice, O honorable prophets who dedicated yourselves well to the law of the Lord, and by faith revealed yourselves as unshakeable and unbreakable pillars of Christ; and, having passed on to heaven, entreat Him to grant peace to the world and to save our souls.

(Vespers of the Sunday before Christmas, Doxastikon of the Aposticha)

THE TWO SUNDAYS before Christmas are dedicated to the ancestors of Christ and to all the saints of the Old Testament respectively. These great men and women lived with a longing to see the promised Messiah. They lived by faith and hope, as the epistle reading for the Sunday of the Holy Fathers tells us:

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony…. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth … who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskin and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. (Heb. 11:1, 13, 33-40)

How truly blessed we are! We live in the Christian age those holy men and women so longed for. As our Lord said:

“Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.” (Luke 10:23-24)

Yet we too have our own waiting to do; we too long for fulfillment. The Incarnation was but the beginning of God’s promise to our holy forefathers. The promise was not completely fulfilled even in the Resurrection, nor in the descent of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh at Pentecost (Joe1 2:28; Acts 2:17). We, too, must wait, like the saints before Christ, for the Lord to come again, when heaven and earth will be renewed, and we shall behold His face and share and rejoice in His glory for ever and ever:

I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwel1 with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have pass away.” (Rev. 21:1 – 4)

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