For me, the most challenging statement from the first paragraph of St. Gregory’s Homily Fifty-Eight on the Saving Nativity According to the Flesh of Our Lord and God and Savior is this:
For nothing done by God from the beginning of time was more beneficial to all or more divine than Christ’s nativity, which we celebrate today.
Palamas appears to be elevating Christmas above the Feast of Feasts — Pascha — the celebration of the Resurrection; however, just as the Resurrection is inexorably linked to the Crucifixion, so too are both linked to the Nativity. Christmas celebrates God taking on flesh — the Second Person of the Trinity uniting Himself to our nature. In order to understand the magnitude of this reality, one must understand sin.
When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they knew a world without God because evil is the absence of God. We took creation away from the very source of its being. Sin was introduced into the world — that which separates us from God — along with our inevitable decay and death. We are doomed to return to the nothing from which God created us.
In the words of St.Paul, there was a dividing wall between humanity and God — a wall that we cannot scale or pass through on our own. No matter what we do or how much we try, we are thoroughly incapable of saving ourselves. And here we come to the veracity of St. Gregory’s claim: by being born in a manger, Christ has permanently abolished the dividing wall by coming to us. He has shattered the enemies sin and death because in Him there is no separation between God and our very nature, for He is perfect God and perfect man.
All that now remains is for us to accept this reality and choose Him who chose to be born for our salvation. Amen.