Once again, I have to admit that even after I became an Orthodox Christian I had a guttural loathing of Christmas. It stems from the fact that my childhood experience of the holiday was so far removed from what Christmas should be all about. All I really remember are the family fights every year that erupted over the Christmas tree, over what presents people got and didn’t get and the overall disappointment that came with the season. It still doesn’t help that we are continually bombarded by images of “what Christmas is really about” — family, gifts and giving.
It wasn’t until I encountered the homilies of the Church Fathers on the Nativity that I finally learned to love Christmas. If one wants to know what Christmas is all about — truly all about — look no further than what St. Gregory the Theologian has to say in Section 2 of Oration 38. Go ahead, read it and re-read it. Read out loud.
I will grant that if one isn’t familiar with the OT, some of the images that St. Gregory uses to describe the magnitude of Christ’s Nativity might not be as powerful as they might otherwise be, but surely there is something there which resonates. “The world above must be filled. Christ commands, let us not resist.” God desires that the Kingdom He prepared for us be ours. Christ has come in the flesh to make the way possible. We need only follow.
Note that this is all about Christ, how He is prefigured in the OT, how all of these events from the OT — even from the very beginning (“Let there be light!”) — are now fulfilled in this child that is born, this son that is given to us. This isn’t about things that we do during the months of November and December leading up to December 25. St. Gregory boldly proclaims what God has done for us.
God has definitely acted. The world is radically different. There is power in this day: “The fleshless one takes flesh.” The words and beliefs of skeptics and of those who question Christ and even the scorn leveled at Christ and his Church fail powerlessly. No human idea of what Christmas should be all about can even come close to the reality of what the event actually is — God Himself so loves each and everyone of us that He was willing to become one of us.
Go ahead, read it again. Read it out loud. Declare it. Live it. Be bold, “for laws of nature are dissolved,” “for to us a child is born, and a son is given, the power is on his shoulder” and is freely given to us.