On the Feast of the Nativity 2018
Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on the Eve of Christmas 2018 at St. Mary Orthodox Church in Cambridge, MA
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.
St. John the Evangelist wrote three letters that appear in the New Testament. In his first letter, chapter 2, verse 21, he explains why he is writing. “It is not because you do not know the truth that I write to you, but because you know already.”
In a sense the whole world was awaiting the Savior. The whole world knew because the Logos is the glue that holds all things together. The metaphors that relate to the birth of Jesus show up in a variety of places just as the longing for a God-made-man who dies and resurrects does in ancient mythology. Here is one poem from the Roman poet Virgil that is resplendent with New Testament imagery before the birth of Christ.
"Now the virgin is returning…
A new human race is descending from the heights of heaven…
The birth of a child, with whom the iron age of humanity will end and the golden age begin…
Under your guidance, whatever vestiges remain of our ancient wickedness,
Once done away with, shall free the earth from its incessant fear…
For your sake, O child, the earth, without being tilled,
Will freely pour forth its gifts…
Your very cradle shall pour forth for you
Caressing flowers. The serpent too shall die…
Assume your great honors, for the time will soon be at hand,
Dear child of the gods, great offspring of Jove!
See how it totters – the world’s vaulted might,
Earth, and wide ocean, and the depths of heaven,
All of them, look, caught up in joy at the age to come."
What a beautiful and synchronicity that Virgil would write these prophetic words. What was he referring to? I am not sure his intentions, but our faith tells us that if we have eyes to see, we will see God and his Christ everywhere. Does it come as a surprise that the Lover of Humanity would whisper in the ear of everyone searching for truth and longing for a Messiah?
Here is another post-Christmas reference from the great Sufi poet, Rumi. Again, I am not sure exactly who he is writing about, but my Christian heart sees Christ in his words, and those who know Rumi’s work can tell you that he was no stranger to Christianity and our scriptures. Nor were the Orthodox Christian of Asia Minor unfamiliar with him!
“My tired heart, take a sigh of relief, the time has come for you to heal. The Friend who helps all lovers has come into this world in the form of a man.”
Tonight we celebrate what Virgil and the Hebrew prophets foretold and what Rumi’s pen celebrated. The Great prophet Isaiah, the speaker of divine things, says it most eloquently.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
Tonight in the midst of holiday busy-ness, when the gifts are wrapped and the television is off, and the house is quiet , take some time to contemplate the mystery of the birth of the Son of God. Take a few deep breaths, let your mind take a rest from all its labors, and look deep into your heart. There you will find him knocking on the door. Tonight, why not open the door.