THE NATIVITY ACCORDING TO THE FLESH OF OUR LORD GOD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST

First, I want to express my deepest Christmas tidings to you. Christ is Born! Glorify Him!nativity in a cave

Let me quote from a Nativity reflection by Father John Abdalah of the Antiochian Orthodox Church. He says:

We greet one another with this confident exclamation during the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord. With this seasonal greeting we affirm that Jesus, who took on flesh and was born into our world, is indeed the Christ, and worthy of glorification… In this feast we celebrate our salvation through the good news of our Savior’s advent. When we greet each other with the news of Christ’s birth, we seize the opportunity to glorify the new born Savior. This greeting carries within it the promise of salvation, and the very meaning of life.

Okay, so go get your favorite Christmas (Nativity) season beverage and munchies. Get settled in a nice comfortable chair.

Here are some resources you can browse through to, I hope, find a Christmas blessing. I invite you to draw near the manger with me and encounter Him Himself who is our Savior and Lord.

Here is a list of the readings for today over the course of the Hours and Divine Liturgy according to the Eastern Orthodox lectionary. A beautiful narrative tour of the saving work of God throughout history:

  • Hours

Micah 5:2-4
Hebrews 1:1-12
Matthew 1:18-25
Jeremiah (Baruch 3:35-4:4)
Galatians 3:23-29
Luke 2:1-20
Isaiah 7:10-16; 8:1-4, 9-10
Hebrews 1:10-2:3
Matthew 2:1-12
Isaiah 9:6-7
Hebrews 2:11-18
Matthew 2:13-23
Genesis 1:1-13
Numbers 24:2-3, 5-9, 17-18
Micah 4:6-7; 5:2-4
Isaiah 11:1-10
Jeremiah (Baruch 3:35-4:4)
Daniel 2:31-36, 44-45
Isaiah 9:6-7
Isaiah 7:10-16; 8:1-4, 9-10

  • Divine Liturgy

Hebrews 8:7-13
Mark 10:46-52

Or

Hebrews 1:1-12
Luke 2:1-20

If you prefer the Western lectionary, here are the readings appointed for today and tomorrow:

  • Daily Office

Christmas Eve:
Psalm 89:1-29
Isa. 59:15b-21
Phil. 2:5-11

Christmas Day:
Psalm 2, 85; 110:1-5(6-7), 132
Zech. 2:10-13
1 John 4:7-16
John 3:31-36

  • Holy Eucharist

Isaiah 9:2-7
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2:1-14(15-20)
Psalm 96

Or

Isaiah 62:6-12
Titus 3:4-7
Luke 2:(1-7)8-20
Psalm 97

Or

Isaiah 52:7-10
Hebrews 1:1-4, (5-12)
John 1:1-14
Psalm 98

In addition, a wonderful selection of Nativity sermons that represent some of the greatest voices of the Church’s Holy Tradition can be found here for your edification.

I was also pleased to come across an downloadable copy of The Sermons and Conferences of John Tauler, published in 1910.Here is a copy of one of his not so “Christmas-ee” sermons from that book. By the way, short biography of Tauler can be read here.

SECOND SERMON FOR THE FEAST OF CHRISTMAS
By Johannes Tauler (1300-1361)

“In the beginning was the Word.” John 1.1

Learned men say of the Eternal Word, that God never spoke it but once, and that in a certain sense it is yet unspoken, which means that the Eternal Word is the speech of the Father, even His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him, without beginning and without end, has the Father uttered all created things. Nor can we say, in every meaning of the terms, that the Word has been uttered, since He has  never come forth out of the Father.

And, mark well, dear children, that we may understand this Word in four ways. The first is His place on the altar in the hands of the priest; there shall we know and love the Eternal Word, just as we shall be known to the Father in the same Eternal Word. Again shall we know the Eternal Word in what we are taught by the preacher from the pulpit, uttering His Divine truth. And we must receive Him thus properly, for, as water flows through the stream, so comes the Eternal Word through the lips of the preacher. We must not be hindered by the preacher’s defects; we must rather look at the Eternal Word in His very essence, as He floweth forth eternally from the depths of His being. Thirdly, we must recognize the Eternal Word in all our Lord’s friends, who, having imitated Him here on earth, are now joined to Him in everlasting life, or who are yet His disciples here below. These are all they who are in living union with our Lord Jesus Christ. Fourthly, we must know the Eternal Word as He is uttered in our very souls by God Himself ; and this is a revelation of Him not to be described, for the soul has no words that can tell it.

You must know that the Eternal Word is self-begotten in the soul and that the soul itself, when favored with the Divine generation within it, knows the Eternal Word better than all teachers can describe Him. What one can put into speech is all too little, and, therefore, the Word itself quickly teaches the soul. Hence we are instructed to hurry gladly to that school in which the Holy Spirit is the schoolmaster. And be sure, dear children, that when He is the schoolmaster, He wants to find His scholars very well prepared for Him, so that they may be able to understand the precious lessons which He draws for them from the Father’s heart.

Hence the soul which would experience this birth of the Word must stand forth in great purity, and its life must be a noble one and wholly interior, not running after the pleasures of the five senses, nor absorbed in multiplicity of created things; but it must live in the utmost purity of heart. Says Master Eckhart: “What God does in a soul which He finds free and stripped of all things, so detached from creatures that He can be spiritually born in it, is both more pleasing to Him and more communicative of His own self than the creative act by which He drew all things out of nothing.”

And why is this? Because God has no creature with so great a capacity as a soul in which He is spiritually generated, for in none can He express Himself so perfectly; into none can He pour Himself out so entirely and in all the force and essence of His being. Now, we have already said that the birth of God in the soul, is nothing else than that He reveals Himself to the soul with a new knowledge and after a new manner of communication.

It may be asked if the greatest blessedness of the soul is to be found in this work of God in it? I answer: Although God has more joy in this than in all His other works among creatures, whether in Heaven or earth, yet the soul’s supreme joy is rather in its own work of receptivity while this birth of God takes place in it. It is not the soul’s supreme joy that God is born in it, but rather that, with intimate love and union, it responds to the knowledge God imparts by this generation, whereby the soul is born again and restored to Him who is its origin. In this the soul departs from self and cleaves to God, and is thereby blessed not by self-blessedness, but by God’s. The soul now has, if it will, the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Now is it dissolved into the Divine Unity; now shall be revealed God alone to the soul’s self alone. Hence a famous doctor teaches, that no one may come to this state who has so much of earthly taint on him as could be held by the point of a needle. Into the pure Godhead can no man enter except he be as pure as when he came forth from God. Thus teach spiritual writers, and they wisely counsel us to yield the victory to God, and receive everything from Him direct and nothing from creatures. And it is thus we give God His best glory, and, being detached and empty, we await His action, when and how He wills it; for we must own that God does all things best. Our part is to help God, as far as in us lies, to advance His glory.

A certain teacher says that a king pays little heed to those of his underlings who do menial service, but he is attentive to those who are his personal associates, and these he always favors. God acts thus with His chosen friends—souls that are in His company in His hidden retirement; God refuses them no petition. Some teachers tell us, however, that many souls reach the Kingdom of heaven, who on earth enjoyed no more familiar intercourse with God than a man buried in a dark forest enjoys the sunlight. But let us in our lives and in our purposes earnestly strive after the highest privilege; and may God grant us His help. Amen.

———————————–

I pray that God will be continuing to bless you to overflowing with His loving presence now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Fr. Thomas

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