On the Sunday Before the Nativity

by Fr. Antony Hughes

Sermon Preached by Father Antony Hughes on Sunday, December 21, 2003

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.

Glory to Jesus Christ!

In a few short days our greeting to one another will change. In a few short days we will commemorate and celebrate the pivotal event in all of history: the birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Do you really know who He is?

He is the I Am, the God of gods, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the Beginning and the End, the Prince of Peace, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father. He is the reason for creation and the one through whom all things were made. It was He that spoke from the burning bush and He who appeared with the Three Holy Children in the fiery furnace.

St. Maximus the Confessor writes it this way: Christ is the hidden mystery, the blessed goal, the purpose for which everything was created…with His gaze fixed on this goal God called all things into existence. The mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God contains in itself the whole meaning of the riddles and symbols of Scripture…Whoever knows the mystery of the cross and the tomb knows the meaning of all things. ”

We read the genealogy of our Lord, that part readers of Scripture often pass over, because it demonstrates that Jesus was really born as a man, He has a human lineage, ancestors, both sterling characters and reprehensible ones, in-laws and outlaws, just like all of us do. He does not avoid the riff raff of this world, He embraces them! I saw a bumper sticker at the Episcopal Divinity School yesterday that read, “God bless the whole world. No exceptions!” Our God does bless the whole world, no exceptions! This God does this, “no exceptions”, by being born as a human child, taking on all of human nature.

A god that forever stands at a distance from his creation is no god at all. A god who limits his contact with humanity to laws and books is no god at all. At least he is not a god of love. But the true God is a God primarily and absolutely of love and this He proves by coming to earth, taking on human flesh to meet us face to face, to touch us, to share all our joys and sorrows, to care for us and to die for us in order to make it possible for us all to share the life and kingdom of His Father forever and ever; a life more beautiful, more abundant, more thrilling, more exciting, more glorious than anything we could ever create or imagine in our wildest dreams. The Incarnation of the Son of God is absolutely essential! Had He not become Man we would never be able to know Him like this – intimately and personally. He would remain always the “God up there,” the Unapproachable, the Unattainable, the Fearful and Capricious Judge, the God we would always have to try and satisfy – like Zeus!

But we Orthodox do not recognize this deity as God. We have looked in the eyes of Jesus Christ and have seen God staring back at us with human eyes