In less than three weeks hundreds of millions of Christian believers, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants will be celebrating the Nativity of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Once again He will be entering a sinful and suffering world. For almost 2,000 years the commemoration and celebration of the birth of the Only-Begotten Son of the Father has brought great joy and unfading hope to the hearts of untold numbers of people. It will be no different this year.
People are hurrying to and fro preparing for the great Feast Day of Christ's holy Advent. We all know why: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16)"
We know from Holy Scripture that in the beginning God created us to live forever. Even now in our fallen nature, we rarely think about death, but only life. Many times we try to hide the reality of death because it is not in our original nature to concern ourselves about death, especially our own death. This is natural; for our God is the God of the living and not of the dead.
Yet we can never deny the reality of death since we, through our progenitors, Adam and Eve, created death. God did not create death; we did. We know the story. Our first parents in the Garden of Eden used their free will contrary to God's will with Whom they were bonded from the beginning. By acting against the divine will they broke that bond. God had warned them beforehand that if they ate the fruit from the forbidden tree that they would surely die. They ate and by doing so they brought death to themselves and to all their descendants. Consequently all of nature fell.
God in His mercy and love did not turn away from our first parents and their offspring and descendants. Down through the many ages He sent representatives to the people to keep them aware of their original purpose and of His concern and love for them. He sent holy men; He sent angels; He sent prophets and Apostles to bring the people back to Him and to His life-giving teachings.
For numberless eons God looked upon the plight of His people on earth. When they died, their souls descended into Hades, the kingdom of Satan. There were no exceptions. Even the righteous and those obedient to God descended into Hell. The righteous Abel, Cain's brother was the first victim of Satan and the first imprisoned in Hades.
Finally, God the Father sent His only Son into the world in order to redeem His people from the pangs of Hell and destroy Satan's power. This would not have occurred had not the holy Ever-Virgin Mary come into the world. She was born of the elderly Joachim and Anna who had previously decided to give her over to the Temple in Jerusalem and to be raised there. Holy tradition tells us that from a young age she conversed with angels. In the fullness of time the Archangel Gabriel greeted her and informed her that she had found favor with God. Her response to the invitation from Gabriel was, "Let it be to me according to your word."
God knew that we could never save ourselves. How can the imperfect become perfect all by itself, especially when the mark of Satan is upon every descendent of Adam and Eve? For we know from the Book of Genesis that when our progenitors submitted themselves to Satan, they had unknowingly turned over their authority of the stewardship of the world and their posterity to the power of Satan. No one, therefore, could restore them and their descendants to their original pristine state, but only God in Whose image they and all humankind are created.
Therefore God sent His Son into the world for our redemption and our salvation.
This is the reason our hearts overflow with joy in this holy Advent season. With the birth of Christ, we see our redemption; we see our salvation. Our voices rise to heaven as we joyfully sing the beautiful carols. One such carol tells it all in stating that Jesus Christ came into the world so that "man no more may die."
Even non-Christians are caught up in this spirit as if they understand innately that the birth of Jesus Christ affects their lives also.
Yet in this festive season we see a gross contradiction before us. We see ourselves living in an evil and unbelieving world. We see that in fulfillment of scriptural prophecies regarding our days that men's love has truly grown cold. People have become lovers of themselves and of money rather than lovers of God. They are boastful and blasphemous, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unforgiving, slanderers, brutal, without any self-control, despisers of good and lovers of evil pleasures. They ridicule the Christian faith on the television sitcoms, and they blaspheme Christian dogma particularly in their recent movies. They have no shame. They agree with killing the unborn, but will sacrifice themselves to preserve a particular wildlife that is considered an endangered species. In other words, they choose to be selective regarding life, as if some life is sacred and some is not. They fail see that all life is sacred.
There is no right or wrong anymore. "If you like it, do it," they say. Values today are not measured by moral principles, but by what has been regarded as legal. And if we manipulate the legal system and sell body parts of babies from partial-birth abortions for our so-called "medical research" without showing that we are breaking the law, we do it.
We and our children are becoming more and more insensitive and callused regarding human life and the former high regard we have had for a human being. Children using computer games mutilate and decapitate their opponents while we the adults, are silent and apathetic to this unfolding human drama.
We humans have today become expendable and even disposable in regard to life's values. We have placed ourselves on a lower level than our inventions and our possessions. We cannot function anymore without being subservient to our modern-day creations which, we say, make life easier and better for us. Some of us have begun talking more with machines than with people! Could we come to the point of not wanting God to raise us up from where we have fallen?
But thanks be to God that we do not belong to ourselves, but to Him. He created us as the highest and the noblest of all His creation. Therefore He comes to be born again this year, especially in our hearts, and to renew His image in us. Christ the Lord is coming to elevate us, to exalt us, to our former and our future glory, even while the unbelieving world encourages only the physical and materialistic benefits of consumerism, hedonism and sensuality. The world continues to have an unquenchable thirst for increasing and diversifying material and carnal pleasures, while denigrating and destroying those things which have always been considered upright and beautiful and honorable.
However, we do not lose hope; for we know that He Who is in us is greater than he who is in the world. We, therefore, will continue to magnify and glorify God for His unending love for us. And we will continue to uphold His promises which will soon be fulfilled.
Our loving God knows all too well that the materialistic and hedonistic forces in the world are warring against the presence of His Holy Spirit Who dwells in the hearts of His people. He sees that what the world calls light is total darkness. He knows of our condition and our spiritual warfare. This is why He comes to us this day through the words of the Psalmist who says, "Give comfort to my people." He continues to proclaim peace to us and salvation to all who fear Him.
Through His Only-Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, we experience His kindness; we experience His truth. And He brings justice and peace to our hearts. This is the reason we can smile and we can be joyful, even in the face of every adversity. We see our Lord coming to us once again to sustain us, to strengthen us, and to inspire us to hold fast to His promises.
As we come to the end of this second millennium from that holy night in Bethlehem, we rejoice to hear that there will be new heavens and a new earth wherein righteousness will dwell eternally.
Let us, then, with anxious anticipation prepare ourselves for the holy Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ and His human birth. We will remain strong, and confident, for we have already been baptized with His Holy Spirit and we have been confirmed with the gifts of the Spirit. As we await the great Feast Day of His Advent, let us remain ever assured of His Parousia, His Second and glorious Coming and the full establishment of His Everlasting Kingdom. Amen.
December 5, 1999