Nativity Homily

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.  Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

As we are all trying to recover from our attempts at finding that "perfect" gift, from wading through the crowds at the malls, or developing a chronic case of carpal tunnel syndrome from frantically surfing the web and racking up our own version of the national debt, I am reminded of a Thanksgiving. Day a few years ago: Thanksgiving, that halcyon day when the sales begin and Christmas seems so far away.  Sales and Turkey aside, a friend of mine had an experience on a Thanksgiving that has put some things about Christmas into perspective for me.

He sent an e-mail to me about coming home from visiting family.  It said,

“Thanksgiving weekend on my way home to Atlanta from down home,

I had a remarkable dream on a stopover.  I think it relates well to the craziness surrounding the Christmas season that begins right after Thanksgiving. I dreamed that I was in a small town in the frozen north.  There was a large group of people gathering together around an old Victorian house.  It was a beautiful house, the air was crisp with the cold, the sky bright, snow lay on the ground like a know, all the clichés.  But there was something odd, a sense of strangeness....  I noticed that everyone was carrying large bundles of objects or dragging wagons laden with, books, art, and so on.  I was carrying my old comic book collection which I no longer paid much attention to, but had cherished growing up, and if you asked me I’d say it still held some nostalgic value.  We all silently entered the house and began to stack our things all over the building in every spare bit of space.  Before we put them down, however, each item was dipped into a large bucket of some mysterious chemical solution. 

My curiosity got the better of me and I began to look around at what other people had given up.  I began to understand the allure of the garage sale.  These people were getting rid of precious things....well, I thought they were precious.  Obviously others did too.  I noticed that I was not alone in my admiration of other people's cast offs.  We all began to covet each other's goods.  I was amazed that someone would get rid of a first edition Mark Twain....someone was amazed that I was getting rid of that Spider Man comic.  We began to greedily grab at the items neatly stacked around us.  As soon as our hands made contact, however, the goods crumbled into dust.  I was heart broken to see an original Huck Finn crumble and sift through my fingers.  Soon rage took over and we all began to destroy everything in sight.  We were like 3 year old children in a tantrum..."I want it I want it I want it I want it!" Who doesn't remember that awful frustration that wells up within when you desire something so much and it is beyond your grasp.  I was stunned by my tearful fury and desperate longing for the treasures around me.  Listening to this interior child's fury suddenly became funny to me and I started laughing as I crushed all sorts of items I would have ordinarily considered precious.  Soon, we were all laughing as we destroyed the interior of the house with gleeful abandon.  We went outside.

The first thing we noticed was that the walls of the house were made of sheets of paper that had been dipped in the strange chemical and then slapped up onto the frame.   It did not take us long to reduce the house to dust.  It was then that we noticed that the only thing left to us....was us.  There we were formed into a circle as we had demolished the house...and there we still were in a circle now facing each other over the empty lot where the house had been.  And we smiled and understood.’  Looking at the dream, I think that at Christmas it's not the seemingly precious things you want or the gifts that you get that are important.  It's the gift that you are.”

I finished reading my friend’s story and I smiled to myself.  I could not help but to think of the great gift that God had given us.  He gave us ourselves back to us. That which had been broken in Eden is healed.  That which was lost in the Garden is found again.  In Christ the likeness of God is revealed and given to mankind in the form of a little child, whose swaddling clothes loose the bands of sin.   We can now look at each other and see the image of Christ in each other...or at least we should.  We were meant to live in union with God, and one of the ways that we do this is to love our neighbor, to see Christ in our neighbor.  Our Lord said that when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit those in prison, we have done these things to Him.  We can be a gift to others.  We were created in God’s image and meant to attain to the likeness of God.  Through our fall, we became alienated from our true purpose.  In the Nativity we have been given that purpose back. Human nature and Divine Nature have been eternally joined.  We often lose sight that the true likeness of God is God’s son, the Logos, Who is Christ.  We need to look to Christ to see in what form that likeness takes on.  It is the form of a servant; it is in the form of a healer.  It is in the form of selfless love.  When we love God and one another, we come that much closer to the likeness of God.  It has been said that God became a man so that man could become a god.  “Man’s deification is not a luxury in the spiritual life, “writes Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos, “but his purpose and end.”  God is love, as the Gospel says; therefore let us love one another to be like God.   What a great gift we have been given....a second chance after our fall!  We have been given God’s love. Let us grasp this gift above all others and pass it along.  This gift is not someone else’s cast off treasure.  This gift when handed down is not a hand me down. It is never diminished by sharing.  So, give of it freely to your neighbors.  It only grows in the giving.

What did we, and all His creation, give to Christ on that first Christmas?  In the Vespers of the Nativity, we find out:

What shall we offer Thee, O Christ, who for our sakes hast appeared on earth as man?  Every creature made by Thee offers Thee thanks. The angels offer Thee a hymn; the heavens a star; the Magi gifts; the shepherds their wonder; the earth its cave; the wilderness, the manger: and we offer Thee a Virgin Mother.  O pre-eternal God, have mercy on us.

Let us add to this gift to Christ this year and give Him our love and ourselves.  How do we give it to Him?  By loving our neighbor....

Christ is born! Glorify Him!





2008 Fr. Philip Kontos