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2012-12-23 message

posted Dec 24, 2012, 12:55 PM by St. John's Webmaster

‘Twas the night before Christmas and o’er at St. John,

The whole church was praying and singing as one.

We are knocking at the door of the feast. Today we sing the hymn of the forefeast which urges Bethlehem to prepare for the great occasion, and we continue to sing the kontakion which reminds us that “God the eternal Word will be born,” and invites the entire world to be “filled with joy.”

This is a time of exceeding joy. The Son of God is born. The Savior of our souls has arrived. The King of kings and Lord of lords has humbled Himself so as to come to us in a lowly manger. Let us be amazed at the greatness of God’s mercy. Let us wonder at His great love. Let us be in awe of the great gift of salvation which comes to us through Jesus Christ.

“The Lord has done great things for us,” as the psalmist says (Ps. 125:3). We speak in the Liturgy of blessings seen and unseen that have been bestowed on us, and we know, each of us, that there are many of those. The biggest blessing and gift, however, is the gift of salvation, the gift of eternal life where there is no pain, sorrow, or suffering. This gift came through the Incarnation which we are about to celebrate.

This seems then to be a very good time to ask with the psalmist, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all that He has done for me?” (Ps. 115:3 (LXX)). We can find many answers, perhaps offering back to God some of the gifts which we have received from Him. The most important answer—the only answer fitting to the biggest gift—is found in the words of the Divine Liturgy: “Let us commend ourselves and one another and our whole lives to Christ our God.” If we have not thought about these words before, let us do so now. If we have tried to put Christ first in our lives before and failed, let us try again now. If we are committed to the Lord, let us reaffirm our determination and commitment now.

We are coming to the great feast of the Nativity. Tomorrow morning, in the royal hours of Christmas, we will read prophecies about Christ’s birth, epistles explaining to us the meaning and implication of the Word’s incarnation, and Gospel lessons telling us about the Birth itself. In the evening, we will chant hymns and read about God’s work of salvation through history which culminated in the Son becoming man, and celebrate together the beginning of Christmas day celebrations with the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. We complete our services for December 25 on the day itself, when we will sing once again, with joyful voices, “Christ is come from heaven, encounter him! Christ is on earth, arise to Him!” and celebrate Orthros and the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.

I look forward to celebrating this feast with you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, in all its beauty and majesty.

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

With love in Christ,
+Fr. Peter
Parish Priest