Come and See
At a store meeting where I work, the manager asked what "tradition" people had for giving and the like as Christmas approached. Now, remember, this is a retail store -- and in retail, the ultimate goal is sales, whatever else may be added in in terms of customer service and the like. During this brief exchange, one of our associates said that their "gift exchange" is actually "buy whatever you want." That is to say, there is no real gift exchange at all -- when they get together, they just all share how happy they were to have, well, whatever it was that they wanted.
Now THAT sort of dampened my spirits. Although I enjoy my job, the whole frenzy at this time encourages greed, I think. But to not even "give" -- well, now that is a secularization of the season.
That got me to thinking about the Nativity and the Fast the precedes it. Perhaps these observations will be helpful. Keep in mind that when you keep the Fast, and then the Feast, in the tradition of the Church, you may well have opportunity to speak to people of Christ and invite them to "Come and See!"
As Christians, as Orthodox Christians, something much different is going on. Our focus is on the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus -- when the LOGOS took on our flesh, when the Creator indeed became as one of the created. Over the centuries the great feast of the Incarnation has been preceded by a Fast. During the Fast we deny the passions that so often get out of control in order that in silence we may ponder the Mystery of the Incarnation.
That Mystery is so much more than a cute baby in a manger. And it is much more than gifts and shopping and spending large amounts of money, perhaps exceeding what we can afford.
So it is that we are faced with a challenge that may often cause us to go "against the grain." Rather than partying more, we pray more. Rather than get so caught up in all the "stuff" that has become traditional, we go to the ancient hymnody, the simple chants that turn our eyes and ears to the fact that Christ in born, and we glorify Him.
Rather than watching all the things that are on TV that claim to be "Christmas", we can shut off the TV, and read together the Fathers, the Scriptures, and in the silence of that time together be joined in Christ.
In our times, it is very important to observe this Nativity Fast! It is all too easy to be caught up in the so-called "holiday cheer" and "Seasons Greetings" and to be swept away from the Nativity instead of coming close and pondering the great and awesome mystery. It is all too easy in our day to lose salvation in our watered down, Christless, celebrations.
When you quietly observe the Fast, even when attending the occasional party, you may well have the opportunity to invite someone to come and see Jesus. You may be asked why you didn't take this offering or drink that beverage!
When you as a family, intentionally pray together the prayers of the Church, perhaps the Paraklesis together, the Holy Spirit works to calm the passions and direct you from the "spirit of this season" to eternity in Christ.
When the music in your home is that of the Church, more than merely the traditions of our times, your visitors may see Jesus!
Send cards and greetings that reflect that Christ is Born!
Joined in Christ and preparing to celebrate again the Incarnation, shut out the noises that distract and wear you out: then you can see Jesus in those around and truly enjoy His blessings.
Pray daily and constantly as you journey toward Nativity -- so that you are not merely trying to get through another Christmas, or outdo the gifts that weregiven last year! Look to Jesus, author and perfector of faith. He will send the Spirit to guide you in such a way that the giving and gathering, will strengthen and give true joy, rather than having you arrive at Christmas, the Feast of the Nativity, worn out and secretly looking forward to it being all over.
And when the Feast arrives, schedule around the Divine Liturgy and other services and vigils! When this happens, you say with words and actions, "Come and See! Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
The Fast and the Feast find meaning only in Christ God, the Lover of Mankind. Everything else is secondary. Receive Him! He is your Salvation!
Christ is in our midst! Christ is born --glorify Him.
Give Glory to God for all Things!