Christ is born, Glorify Him!
With all my heart, I congratulate you all: God-loving archpastors and pastors, pious monks and nuns, dear brothers and sisters, with this great world-saving feast of the Nativity in the Flesh of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ.
Today the holy Orthodox Church prayerfully remembers and glorifies the great Mystery of piety of the Incarnation—the appearance of God in the flesh (1 Tim. 3:16). The Mystery of the coming of Christ the Messiah into the world originates in Paradise, from that tragic event when our forefathers, Adam and Eve, disobeyed the commandment of Divine love. Unwilling to repent, Adam and Eve thus turned away from God, and because of their self-justification, they also became opponents of God. In order not to violate the freedom of the forefathers and not to force them to live with the One against Whom they rebelled, the Lord led them out of Paradise into a sorrowful and devastated world, where they realized their personal spiritual desolation. They finally understood, but it was too late: Before the restoration of their inner desolation, they had to drink the cup of sorrow to the dregs. And they drank their cup with gratitude and repentance. All his life Adam lifted his eyes towards Paradise, wept, and repeated: “My Paradise, Paradise, my sweetest Paradise!” Adam and his descendants wept, mourned, and patiently waited for the blessed day when, according to the word of God, the Seed of the Woman would crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15), the devil, when the Redeemer would come down to earth and restore and repair the desolation of human souls. And this time has arrived. The Son of God has come into the world.
The Holy Gospel describes the Nativity of Christ in the following way. During the reign of the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus, who also ruled Judea at the time, a decree was issued that a census be conducted throughout the entire world (Luke 2:1). The Mother of God, who bore in her womb the Savior who desired to take human nature from her, made the journey with her earthly guardian angel, St. Joseph the Betrothed, from Nazareth to Bethlehem, so as to participate in the census in the city of David, because they were descendants of King David. And since at this time, all the descendants of David had come for the census in Bethlehem, there were no rooms available for them in the inns. But the time had come for the Blessed Virgin to give birth. They then went out of the city, into a cave where shepherds took shelter in bad weather, and there, in a poor cave, the Mother of God gave birth to the Savior of the world, the Son of God, Who desired to become the Son of Man. The Most Holy Virgin Mary swaddled the Divine Infant and placed Him in a manger to which, according to the prophecy of Isaiah, the ox and the donkey were tied (Isaiah 1:3): the donkey that carried the Most Holy Virgin from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and the ox that the holy, righteous St. Joseph the Betrothed brought with them so that they may sell it when they needed money to live on.
At that time, in the fields near the blessed cave, shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks. An angel of God appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone down upon them. The shepherds were seized with fear, but the angel of God reassured them, saying, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people…And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger (Lk. 2:9-12). Suddenly a great company of the Heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Lk. 2:14). When the holy angels ascended to Heaven, the shepherds said to one another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us (Lk. 2:15). The shepherds were the first people to come to the cave of Bethlehem; once there they found an infant swaddled and lying in a manger. They recounted to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph the Betrothed all that the angel had told them about the Holy Infant (Lk. 2:15-17).
Not long after, three eastern kings came to worship the Infant Christ: one from Persia, one from Arabia, and one from Ethiopia. They saw a wonderful star in the sky and realized that the Redeemer had come into the world, Who had been expected by all the nations of the world. The three Wise Men came to worship the Infant Christ the very day of His Nativity. They brought with them gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh: gold as for a King, incense for a High Priest, and myrrh as a symbol that the High Priest Christ would sacrifice Himself for the salvation of mankind. After presenting the gifts and worshiping the Infant Christ, the Magi returned to their own lands, and the wicked King Herod began to seek the Infant in order to kill Him. The unfortunate Herod did not realize that Christ, Who was born in Bethlehem, was not born to be the King of the Jews. Christ is the King of all the earth and of Heaven, and He does not seek power over men as do the kings of the earth. He desires to embrace all men and warm them with His Divine love. Christ the Savior came to earth not to enslave us, but to free us from slavery. Christ the Savior took upon Himself our sins that previously enslaved us, destroyed them on the Cross, and set us free in the fullest and truest sense of the word. Christ the Savior not only emancipated us from the bondage of sin, He also taught us how we should live so as to maintain our spiritual freedom: what we should do and what we should not do. All of the Savior’s teachings are written in the holy Book known as the Gospels.
Every time we celebrate the Nativity, we lovingly remember the story of this glorious event. The story of the Nativity is outwardly simple and humble, but in its simplicity and modesty, the Lord reveals to us His wisdom, greatness, and power. The infant Christ is still lying in the manger, and the earthly kings are already worried. Eastern kings, moved by the love of Truth, come with gifts and worship the Infant Jesus. The wicked King Herod is seized with fear, but instead of coming and worshiping the Divine Infant and thereby strengthening himself and his kingdom, he goes mad and seeks to kill Him. The Roman emperor Caesar Augustus, before whom the whole world trembled, also served the Mystery of the Incarnation: He ordered a census, not suspecting that the main thing was not to register his subordinates, but to bring the Mother of God to Bethlehem so as to fulfill the prophecy, which foretold that Christ the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
The appearance of the angels on Christmas night and their words and songs testify to the greatness of the Mystery of Christ’s Nativity, which stirred not only the earth but also Heaven.
During these holy days, by prayerfully remembering and glorifying the Nativity of our God and Savior and God, we join in the worldwide celebration, and, together with all Orthodox Christians, worship our Savior and humbly thank Him for loving us sinners. We humbly pray that the Son of God, “Who for us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man” (Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed), Who descended into our infirmities, might forgive us our sins, our defilement, by which today we approve and adopt unnatural laws by which we continue to destroy ourselves. We pray that the Lord would enlighten our spiritual blindness, that we would see and love not our own truth, but the truth of God, which is perfect, eternal, and the only thing that is useful to us. We pray that the Lord would toughen us and give us the strength to endure with dignity those trials and diseases before which the whole world trembles and which, unfortunately, are directly caused by our universal sins.
On this wonderful day, when we commemorate the coming of God into the world, St. Gregory the Theologian states that we should rejoice with awe and joy: with awe because of our sins, and with joy because of hope—hope in God’s mercy, strength, and love of man.
Once again, with all my heart, I congratulate you all, dear brothers and sisters with the feast of the Nativity of Christ. I wish everyone health, salvation and God’s blessings. May the peace and goodwill of God sung by the angels on Christmas night permeate our hearts, our families, our Ukrainian state, and the whole world. Amen.
Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine