Passages: Galatians 4:1-7; Luke 1:26-38
Ընթերցուածք՝ Գաղ. Դ 1-7; Ղկ. Ա 26-38
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Krisdos Dznav Yev Haytnetsav! Christ is Born and Revealed!
This past week the Armenian Church celebrated what? Not Christmas but rather, the birth or Nativity and Baptism or Revelation of Christ Jesus, the Son of God. Now you might say, well isn’t Christmas the same thing? And yes, linguistically for the majority of us, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ. After all that’s what the old Christmas carols teach us. However, do we know what the difference is between what we as Orthodox Christian’s use vs. what the rest of the world uses? Do we know what the word Christmas means, or even where it comes from? Christmas is made up of two words – Christ and Mass. Christ meaning anointed one, or Messiah and Mass is the Latin term for the “Eucharistic service” – Badarak. In other words, it is Badarak in remembrance of Christ’s birth. However, the term “Christmas” began being used quite late in the Church, only after the c. 14th century. Yet, in Armenian we have from the very beginning used, Soorp Dznunt yev Astvadzahaytnutyun (Սուրբ Ծնունդ եւ Աստուածայայնութիւն) – Holy Birth and Revelation of God.
It might surprise all of you to know that the early Church did not celebrate the Nativity or Birth of Christ, because for the early Church, just as today in Armenian Church, the birth is not as important as the revelation of who is being born. In other words, the Revelation of Christ Jesus, God the Son, who became flesh to die for our sins. That is why if we look at an Orthodox icon of the Nativity, we see Jesus laying not in what we would say is a manger, but rather what looks strangely like a coffin, and Christ is not in a stable but a cave, like the tomb He would be placed in. Why? Because for the early Church,
just as for the ancient Churches today, Christ birth was not a matter of Dec. 25 or Jan. 6 but rather Christ revealed to us and what He did upon cross is what truly matters. And continuing from that the question is asked, what action is therefore required from us, having had God revealed to us?
In other words, my dear brothers and sisters, what is our Christian response to God being revealed to us? St. Gregory of Nazianzen teaches us that our response to the knowledge of who God the Son, “Christ in the flesh”…should be to “rejoice with trembling and with joy! With trembling because of your sins, with joy because of your hope!” Meaning we as children of God, who God has been revealed to, our response requires repentance for our sins and hopefulness for our life, because though we have fallen, we are raised back up. Yes, life gets difficult, we face failure, we sin, we are tempted, we feel broken internally and we see the world broken externally. Therefore, we repent, but where and how do we remain hopeful? Our hope comes from our continued growth in the knowledge, wisdom and understanding of who God is and His will in our life. This comes through reading Holy Scripture daily, attending Badarak and liturgy regularly, participating in Bible Studies, asking the priest questions, praying daily, having a genuine thirst and hunger to increase our faith, and applying those things to our life.
Our Church Father’s teach us to pray at least 5 times a day; But if we cannot then 4, or 3, or 2, or even 1; How often do we set time in our daily life to pray my dears? And what is that prayer like? It is interesting that in Armenian we rarely use this term, but in rest of the Orthodox word there is a term known as “prayer life.” In other words, prayer as a regular part of our life, just as eating, drinking, working out, getting dressed, etc.. Do we have a prayer life? This is important because through prayer, reading, and everything I listed earlier, what we learn from there ultimately is what leads us to repentance, confession, rehabilitation, and Communion. Only than are we truly in Communion with God, and we begin to grow deeper in our faith as more of God is revealed to us and we reveal God to the rest of the world through charity, mercy, forgiveness, and love.
It is all connected, my dears, because we are all connected in Christ from the manger to the Cross. Christianity is not about a half hazard crossing of ourselves; Christianity is not coming for Baptism, Wedding and Funerals, or only attending Christmas and Easter Badarak; Christianity is not motivational slogans or a feeling; Christianity is Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus is the Son of God revealed to us through the prophets, His Baptism, ministry, Passion, Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection – which we are taught through the Holy Church by means of the Holy Scriptures, the Father, the Priests, etc. And all of this demands a daily response from each of us. The angels brought the Good News to the Shepherds, who responded by coming to the manger. The Magi saw the star in the East and responded by coming and worshipping the newborn King. How will you and I respond to the same Christ Jesus, to the same light, to the same Good News which has been revealed and declared to us all? We who consume the Body and Blood of Christ, the Holy Communion, how shall we live? As St. Paul writes, before this knowledge, we were like slaves or like children under guardianship who do not know, understand, or have any authority. But now we are no longer slaves, and we are children, who have been giving a responsibility because we are under the direct care of our Heavenly Father. We have received knowledge and authority; we have been given something that is beyond any earthly value and a power that is greater than any other. Yet, my dears, let us look at our life and ask, do we care? Do we want our faith to grow?
As Armenian’s when we bless the water each Jan. 6, we remember what passage of the Gospel? What story? The baptism of Christ Jesus, because Christ was revealed to us then when the Heaven’s opened up and the voice of God said, “this is my Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Reading the Gospel account of Christ’s baptism we know that apart from regular people, there were Pharisees also present. The Pharisees knew the prophets, knew about the Messiah, yet, they did not recognize Christ because they did not want to. St. James in His letter says that even the demons know of God’s existence and they tremble. My dears, coming to Church, singing the hymns, volunteering, signing a check, and having knowledge means nothing unless we respond accordingly in the life we live. Therefore, let all of us pray, attend with a desire to grow. Let all of us together repent of our sins, not by turning away from the world but by turning to God. Turning to God let us rejoice for the Good News of God having been revealed to us daily. May this revelation foster and bring out a response of hope, love, and yearning. For Christ has been Born and Revealed, Krisdos Dznav yev Haytnetsav. Orhnial e Haytnutyune, Blessed is the Revelation of Christ the King to us all, Amen!