Sunday Before Nativity: A Sermon
Beloved of God, this Sunday we commemorate the genealogy of our Lord according to the flesh, and all the righteous and prophets who announced the incarnation of our Lord. We heard the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ from the gospel of St. Matthew. Perhaps some of us at some time or another may have entertained the thought that it would be an honor to be of Jewish background; and so, a blood relative of our Lord according to the flesh. Last week we commemorated the ancestors of our Lord and in the gospel reading we heard the parable of the great banquet. In concluding the Lord said, “none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.” (Luke 14:24) Our Lord was foretelling the falling away of the Jews—His kin according to the flesh.
Yesterday, there was a gospel assigned for the Saturday before the Nativity in which our Lord said to the Jews, “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 13:28-9) Again there is a foreshadowing of the fall of the Jews and the integration of the nations into the kingdom of God. So we can all become kin to God, this is what we want to talk about today, we can become kin to God through Christ Jesus. For those who “have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him Who created him: there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” (Col. 3:10-11)
Being in Christ supersedes all other bonds in this life including blood relations. By becoming a member of the Church, as the Apostle Paul says we have “come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.” (Heb. 12:22-4) “Therefore we are now no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; which is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord: In whom we also are built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Eph. 3:19-22)
So then, we can all become kin to God or children of God, as St. John the Theologian tells us in his gospel: “as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-3) We have power to becomes sons or children of God. The term which St. John uses and is rendered either sons or children would be more accurately translated as young children. This is a term of affection which implies a close relationship, and that is what we have with God. This is why St. John exclaims elsewhere: Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God: “Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (I John 3:1-3)
We must strive to be purified from sin, not only in deed, which is the first step but also in thought and then to be purified from the various passionate inclinations within us. The latter is very rare, few saints completely attain to this, but we are called to move in that direction. The apostle Paul tells us: For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (IICor. 10:3-5) For our struggle is “not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph. 6:12) And in continuing, the Apostle encourages us: “Therefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance.” (Eph.:12-18)
So let us take up this struggle according to our strength. Let us seek to “be transformed by the renewing of our mind” (Rom. 12:2) and “to cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit.” (IICor. 7:1) In proportion to the degree that we accomplish this, Christ will be born in our hearts, and become living and active. Amen