It seems hardly possible that we are already in December, 2014, in the midst of the Nativity Fast. I’ve been pondering our world, which is most certainly not much in the way of peaceful these days. And I’ve been thinking about Nativity and the fact that Christ is born, and how that it so often barely mentioned in the large scheme of things. And, being in retail, the pace, the noise, the hype are increasing all around.
In fact, in spite of the romantic themes that also abound, and the fact that “baby Jesus” is mentioned right in there with all the rest, a season that is often thought of as the time for love and peace and joy is more often than not, not so much what we want it to be. Peace and good will, joy, and even “time with the family” are lost in all the rest.
Quite apart from the Christmas (or is it “Holiday”) themes are the tensions that abound. Wars and rumors of war abound around the globe – and the angry cries of many come out in our own communities.
What to do? Where to turn?
I don’t think it would be to worry. Nor do I think that we should readily ‘choose up sides.” But how to quell the tensions, the angers, the resentment, the fear, the passions that so often seek to consume us?
Think about it: three greetings that are very much Orthodox.
Christ is in our midst! He is and ever shall be.
Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
Christ is our life! We die to live in Him! We deny self to follow Him! Without Christ, there is no meaning, there is no life or light or peace, for in Him, all things find their meaning! It isn’t so much about us “inviting Jesus into our lives” (on our terms), is it? Rather it is that we are joined in Christ, grafted into His Body (the Church)! He takes us into Himself!
Whatever is going on in this world with its madness, He is in our midst. He is here! We are in Him. In Him we live and move and have our being.
And this is His promise: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” What we exclaim in those greetings speaks the truth and is the evidence of His grace, His mercy, His peace and the salvation that He works in us.
During the Nativity Fast, He needs be our focus, whatever else is going on in this season. It is important that we make and take time to be silent before Him, to hear Him in His Temple, to receive Him in His Body and Blood, to hear His absolution and to receive His anointing. Let’s greet one another, “Christ is born! Glorify Him” reminding and proclaiming His presence, for He is indeed the peace that is so necessary for life now and to the ages.
It is so easy to become wrapped up in the rush of things, to be driven by selfish motivations, to be caught up in the tensions around us! We so easily take up sides, or lash out at one another, hold hurts and grudges, seeking our own selfish desires. The Evil One is hard at work and has many accomplices, not to mention the weakness of our sinful flesh.
But Christ is in our midst! He is born! He is risen! And in Him we have died in Baptism and been raised up in Him. That’s why we pray in our prayer corners, why we prostrate ourselves or lift our hands in prayer. That’s why we are joined in this community. He joins us together. He gives us life! He forgives us. And the life that He gives will not end.
During this Nativity Fast, this Winter Pascha, we can be joined as we do join in the Temple for its services! We can be joined as we walk together, encouraging and loving one another not with some sentimental self-created love, but with the love of Christ our God.
When you are ready to give up, remember: Christ is born! Christ is risen! Christ is in our midst!
When you are ready to give up on someone else, remember that we are joined in Christ, the One Who is born, Who is risen, and Who is in our midst – He joins us together, we can forgive as we have been forgiven.
And when you are feeling shame, guilt, despair, remember His Promise, “I am with you always!”
We do live in hectic times, to be sure!
But Christ is in our midst!
He gathers us to share His strength, His love and His forgiveness. His presence is lived as we are present for one another, whatever the circumstance of our lives.
It is 2014. It is the year of our Lord 2014, almost 2015. But salvation is upon us!
Christ is born! Christ is Risen! Christ in in our midst!
Now and ever and to the ages of ages!
Glory to God for all things in this joyous season!