By Stergios N. Sakkos
Christmas is coming and lots of Christians desire to have a deep experience of this great mystery, God’s Incarnation. People usually think of Jesus’ birth as an old, romantic story. Consequently, they do not benefit from it in order to make spiritual progress. There are some questions through which we can discover the only truth in the Holy Bible. These will help us to be fully informed about the Incarnation.
The first question is: Who was born?
- The Person who all the nations waited for. “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death upon them hath the light shined” (Is 9:2).
- When man lost paradise and was sent to exile, he was given a promise about a Savior. He kept that promise in his mind. Since then, all people had been searching for Him in thousands of ways up to that night, when they recognized Him in the newborn child.
- All the prophets of Israel testify with their prophecies that the boy who was born is the Messiah, Emmanuel. God himself came among men. David’s Psalms and Isaiah’s visions are fulfilled in this person who the Holy Spirit declared to be the greatest Prophet, King and High Priest.
- In addition to these, the angel who informed Joseph about the supernatural birth, gave the answer to our question: Jesus is the Messiah and “he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21).
- Wise Men’s leading star declared that the Sun of Justice was born and all mankind would be reconciled with God.
- Much later, John the Baptist said pointing to Him: “He is God’s Lamb and will carry all men’s sins” (Jn 1:29).
- During Jesus’ baptism God’s voice was heard: “He is my beloved Son” (Mt 3:17).
- The fourth Gospel starts with these words: “In the beginning was the Word ... and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us ... the only begotten of the Father ...”
- Jesus Himself gave the answer that irritated his enemies and astonished the crowds. “I am the Light, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 9:5, 14:6) “...without me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:6).
The second question refers to the time of Jesus’ birth: When was he born?
- ·The Gospels give us exact and specific information about it. This birth took place “In the days of Herod, King of Judea...” (Lk 1:1) and when “Caesar Augustus” (Lk 2:1) was the emperor. But this is a limited human aspect of the time of the birth.
- Apostle Paul gives a theological answer. Jesus was born “when the time had fully come” (Gal 4:4). When it was the suitable time for the world to accept his Savior. It was the time when the sin gave its most corrupt fruit: a dying humanity. There was no time left for any delay. Just then God’s Grace offered the most fragrant flower: the humble, virgin, young girl.
The third question has to do with a very touching and sensitive issue concerning the divine birth. Where was he born?
- Jesus chose a well-known town, Bethlehem of Judea, where King David was also born. However, as Jn 1:11 says: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not”. He met hatred and rejection. There was no house or any decent place for the Messiah. A filthy stable, where animals lived, was His first house. He was put in a manger and on the straw they had for the animals.
- Bethlehem’s stable is the best picture to depict the spiritual condition of humanity at that age. The whole world had turned into a huge stable where people gave in their passions. That was the world where Jesus Christ was born.
The fourth question is: How was He born?
- ·The Holy Bible gives the answer that He was born from the Holy Spirit that dwelt in virgin Maria. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk 1:35).
- The angel said to Joseph: “... that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:20).
- No man was involved in that birth. It is a supernatural mystery which transcends human logic.
- He did not descent from heaven in a spectacular way.
- God’s Incarnation followed the natural way as in any woman, that is, the baby remained in his mother’s womb for nine months. He came to life as an infant and passing through all the stages of human life, he grew up into an adult.
- We read in Lk 2:1 “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled”. The emperor ordered this census, because he wanted to learn the number of people under his rule. Jesus was born the night before the census. Messiah who came to give freedom to the world, was enrolled as a new slave. He chose to be one of the slaves of the Roman Emperor and as a result, He had to pay taxes to live and that was very humiliating for Him.
The fifth question is: Why was He born? What is the purpose of this divine plan? In the Apostolic preaching there is always an emphasis on this purpose.
- “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” ( 1 Jn 3:8).
- He was born to redeem us from our sins and therefore destroy death “The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For God has put all things in subjection under his feet” (1 Cor 15:26-27).
- He was born to bring back those that had gone astray. “I have found my sheep which was lost”, “For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost” (Lk 15:6, 19:10).
- He was born to
- He was born so we can be his children again and call God our “father”. “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (Jn 1:12).
- He was born to unite humanity “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male or female for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).
- He was born to give His own happiness and peace “my peace I give to you” Jn (14:27).
However, Jesus’ birth is not a past event. It is a personal fact for everyone. It is an event that is personally connected to each person.We need to look at these five questions, which we have already answered, in close relation to our own life.
- Who was born? My Redeemer.
- When was He born? When I welcomed him inside me.
- Where was He born?In my heart.
- How was He born? Through His Word and the Sacraments of the Orthodox Church.
- Why was He born? To help me find the way to eternity and live in paradise from now on. If the meaning and the message of Christmas is this for me, then:
- I will surely hear a host of angels singing within me “Glory in the highest”, because God, the Emmanuel, will visit my soul.
- My heart will be overwhelmed by a divine happiness.