Sermon on the Nativity

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, has shone to the world the light of wisdom!  For by it, those who worshipped the stars, were taught by a star to adore Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee the Orient from on high. O Lord, glory to Thee!–Tropar of the Nativity, trans. from Liturgy Volume I, St. TIkhon’s Seminary Press

Sermon on the Nativity

Soon we shall be celebrating the feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh. What follows here in this post is an excerpt (with slight paraphrasing) of a sermon of St. Gregory the Theologian on the Nativity.

This feast is the coming of God to Man, so that we might go forth to God; or rather – to express ourselves more properly– that we might go back to God; that putting off the old man, we might put on the New; and that we who died in Adam might live in Christ, being born with Christ and crucified with Him and buried with Him and rising with Him. For I must undergo the beautiful conversion, and, as with the painful fall there was the expulsion from paradise and loss of bliss that came afterwards, so now the more blissful has come out of the painful—the saving dispensation of the Word. For where sin abounded Grace did much more abound; and if a taste condemned us, how much more does the Passion of Christ justify us? Therefore let us keep the Feast, not after the manner of a heathen festival, but after a godly sort; not after the way of the world, but in a fashion above the world; not as our own, but as belonging to Him -Christ God – Who is ours, or rather as being our Master’s; not as of slaves in infirmity, but as of healing; not as of this creation, but of the new, re-creation.

And how shall this be? Let us not adorn our porches, nor arrange dances, nor decorate the streets; let us not feast the eye, nor enchant the ear with music, nor enervate the nostrils with perfume, nor prostitute the taste, nor indulge the touch–those roads that are so prone to evil and entrances for sin. Let us not be effeminate in clothing soft and flowing, whose beauty consists in its uselessness; nor with the glittering of gems or the sheen of gold or the tricks of color, belying the beauty of nature, such are invented in opposition to the image of God; not in rioting and drunkenness, with which are mingled wantonness, since the lessons which evil teachers give are evil – or rather, from worthless seeds come worthless harvests. Let us not set up tabernacles for the belly of what belongs to debauchery. Let us not appraise the bouquet of wines, the superb and uncommon dishes of cooks, the great expense of ointments. Let us not strive to outdo each other in intemperance (for to my mind every superfluity is intemperance, as is all which is beyond absolute need); and this while others are hungry and in want, who are made of the same clay and in the same manner as all of us.

Let us leave all these to the heathen and to the heathen pomps and festivals. But we, the Object of whose adoration is God the Word, if we must in some way have luxury let us seek it in word, and in the Divine Law, and in histories – especially such as are the origin of this Feast – that our luxury may be akin to and not far removed from Him Whom hath called us together. Let us begin from this very moment and let us delight in such matters that would cleanse our minds and our ears and our thoughts, since our thoughts and conversation should be of God and things Divine; and so, when we depart from this holy Liturgy, may we have and ever cling to the enjoyment of delights that have true reality and fade not away.

If we thus honor and look to God then we, in turn, shall be looked at by our great God, Who in Trinity is worshipped and glorified, and Whom we declare to be now set forth as clearly before us as the bonds of our fleshly human nature allow, in Jesus Christ our Lord, to Who be glory forever and ever. Amen.