THE BIRTH OF OUR LORD
THE BIRTH OF OUR LORD
By Archpriest Michael Baroudy
The birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is one of the most staggering facts of history. I have said staggering because our finite minds cannot fully comprehend what is involved in the birth of Jesus Christ from the Virgin Mary in a town called Bethlehem. It is a mystery, the mystery of godliness, as one of the sacred writers calls it. For the Son of God to be incarnated in human flesh and blood, becoming a man, taking upon Him our human nature, is more than our finite intellectual capacity can understand.
However, we fully understand the meaning, the purpose underlying the birth of the Savior. From His blessed lips we have the answer. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him shall not perish, — but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). And in Luke 19:10, “The Son of man came to seek and to save the lost,” to quote scripture in this connection. But to accomplish this, God needed the cooperation of men. God’s divinity and man’s humanity jointly wrought out the miracle. Always God holds the initiative. God was first in creation. He was also first in redemption and in every contingency of life. Thus we learn that the Christian life, in order to realize its full maturity, must be linked with God, thus God becomes partner with man if the latter accords Him His rightful place.
The birth of Jesus takes us back to fundamentals, to beginnings, for if we were to have an enduring moral structure that could withstand the storms of life, understand and solve the complexities and problems of living, then we would know that man minus God cannot achieve a successful Christian living. One may succeed educationally, materially and in every other aspect of living — and yet if he were to by-pass and ignore God he would be committing the most monumental blunder!
What is going on in the world today is proof of the fact that most people are void of the knowledge that life is a partnership with God. How can we account for the ungodly practices that transpire here, in Christian America and elsewhere throughout the world? Man’s inhumanity to man, the friction, the lack of peace, harmony and unity have their origin in man’s rebellious attitude with regard to the will of God.
Let us consider at this blessed season of the year what had transpired on that day long ago to achieve our redemption —
Joseph and Mary journeyed to the Village of Bethlehem, which had been the home of their ancestors, to enroll their names in a census that had been ordered by the Roman Emperor, Augustus Caesar. When they reached Bethlehem, there was no room for them in the inn and they were obliged to seek rest and lodging in an adjoining stable. In this humble place was born to Mary the son which the angel promised her. In the crude hewn stone grotto, attached to the inn as stable, among the hay and the straw spread for the food and rest of the cattle, weary with their journey, far from home, in the midst of strangers, in the chilly winter’s night, in circumstances so void of all earthly comfort or splendor that it is impossible to imagine a humbler nativity, Jesus, the Savior was born. Then and there the Virgin Mother brought forth her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger. Beyond this announcement of the bare fact, the gospel narrative draws a veil over that most sacred mystery. But as we pass from the sacred gloom of the stable out into the night, its sky all aglow with starry brightness, there is nothing now to conceal, and although no glories of earthly greatness celebrated the Messiah’s coming, heavenly glory shone upon the scene, and choirs of angels hymned the praises of the new-born King. Shepherds were amazed and dazzled by the manifestation of the heavenly glory and at the direction of the angels they came to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph as well as the famous Babe. But how little the shepherds realized the greatness of the power and love that slumbered in the child or dreamed of the mighty events, in the coming ages, that should flow from the scene they had witnessed.
To a meditative mind it is curious to pause over any cradle where an infant sleeps, and, as we look on the face so calm, and the little arms folded on the blessed breast, to think of the mighty powers and passions slumbering there, to think that this feeble nursling has heaven and hell before it that this immortal in mortal form is allied to angels, and that the life which has begun shall last when the sun is quenched, enduring throughout eternity. Much more wonderful the spectacle the manger offers, where shepherds bend their knees and angels bend their eyes. Here is present, not the immortal but the eternal, here is not one kind of matter united to another or a spiritual to an earthly element but the Creator to the creature, divine omnipotence to human weakness, the ancient of days to an infant of a day!
What deep secret of divine wisdom, power and love lie here wrapped in swaddling clothes, Mary holds in her arms, in this manger with its straw, what draws the wondering eyes and inspires the loftiest songs of angels! If that be not God’s greatest and therefore glorifying work, where are we to seek it? In what else is it found? The depth said, “It is not in me,” and the sea said, “It is not in me.” Were we to range the universe to find its rival, we should return like the dove to the ark, to the stable doors and the swaddled babe, there to mingle human voices with the heavenly choirs, singing, “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace and good will to all men!”
Beloved brethren, at this time in human history when the world seems to be tottering on its foundation, when the universe appears to be in the hands of a great monster, toying with it and about to throw it in oblivion, the most desirable, important and essential thing today is unity, creative good will and love. Disunity in the ranks of Christian people is inconceivable. Our churches, our homes and in all our social gatherings, we should manifest love, loyalty and sincerity. How can we hope to achieve success if we exhibit a spirit of dissension and ill will. I appeal to you hereby as God-fearing Orthodox men and women, boys and girls to promote the dignity of our holy faith and to do nothing which generates ill will, lack of understanding and sympathy.