Saturday, January 9, 2010


As the liturgical hymn for the Nativity of Christ affirms, all of creation offers something to the newborn Messiah: the heavens offer a star, the angels a hymn, the shepherds their wonder, the earth a cave, and we (that is, the entire human race) the Most Holy Mother of God. But is it not appropriate that we, as individuals, should offer something as well, considering that we have received, through the Incarnation, the greatest gift of all--a gift of inconceivable value--the salvation of our immortal souls?

The exchange of gifts has become for many nowadays the main event of Christmas--often with little or no reference to the birth of Christ. So it is that this most important Holy Day is reduced to gross materialism--a buying frenzy--wherein the average American spends more time in Walmart than in church. We end up buying material things (most of which are made in China) for loved ones who probably need nothing and who already have so much stuff they don't know where to put it all. Hence the proliferation of yard sales in recent decades.

We thereby lose sight of the true spiritual meaning of the Feast--as the Church Fathers teach, the Son of God becomes man that the sons and daughters of man might become gods. So what can we offer to God when everything we possess--even life itself--is given by Him? Even in the Divine Liturgy, "Thine own of thine own we offer unto Thee...."

But that is the point: the only gift we can possibly offer back as a sacrifice is that which He has already given to us. So it is that Abraham was willing to offer up to God his only son Isaac--who was himself the gift of God's promise. God has also given us the gift of salvation, but this gift is not automatic. We are always free to refuse the gift, frittering away our God-given talents in vain and empty worldly pursuits. Or we can strive with all our strength to "work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling."

This is indeed the best gift we can offer back to God: striving to live a pious, holy and righteous life, doing all things to the glory of God. Truly the sacrifice most pleasing to God is "a humble and contrite heart," with the fervent desire to commit ourselves and our whole life to God--even, if the need arises, to suffer and to die for the sake of Christ and His Holy Church. In this way we will truly glorify God, Who was born in a cave and laid in a manger for our salvation. CHRIST IS BORN--GLORIFY HIM!

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