One of the true joys of celebrating the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ is simply that: celebrating the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil on the 24th and celebrating Orthros and Divine Liturgy on the 25th.
This year I was asked to read and assist in the chant – a blessing for me, to be sure. As I read the lessons (and our priest wanted all the lessons) and joined in the chant, I was transported to the glorious event. Indeed, all the cares were laid aside as we repeated the ancient words again, focused on the singular and blessed event of our Lord's Nativity.
In my years as a Lutheran pastor, my focus was on the liturgical celebrations. But the difference is worth noting: those preparations always included choices, choices of readings, choices of hymns, involvement of soloists and choirs, and sometimes over the years that involved some wrestling with those who weren't so concerned about the historic liturgies.
As one lately come, now some three years, I truly appreciate the lack of the wrestling, the choices – for we join with the Church in repeating that which has been repeated for centuries. The Priest prepares, to be sure, but his preparation isn't tied up in who gets to sing what when. Receiving the Tradition handed down, we are focused on the Nativity. We step away to pray, to receive the Light, the Truth in the fullness of the faith.
What happens in the Temple isn't driven by the "popular Christmas,' but carried along by the Spirit.
Sadly, there are many who let "family traditions" keep them from the Church, who don't take the time to come and see, to receive this Holy Mystery. Gatherings with family, which are to be received with joy, often take the place of the One Thing Needful as the gifts and gatherings are scheduled in such a way as to preclude the gathering together of the saints. It is all too easy to allow the extended festivities of the season displace the fasting and prayer that are the prelude to the Feast.
This is the time to make every attempt to celebrate the Liturgies of this Holy Season. It is the time to pray individually and as families the prayers that have been handed down, to read the appointed readings even at those times that actually being present at the Temple is impossible.
What a joy it has been to participate in the services of the Church, to lay aside all the cares of this life, and to receive the King of all.
Come to think of it, that is repentance.
Christ is born! Glorify Him!