Christmas time is a joyous season and rightly so, there
because God in His great mercy and love for us gave us His Only-Begotten Son who came to dwell among us, visit this site
to be with us, decease
to comfort us, and to open for us the doors of Paradise. We received the ultimate gift and we should be thankful and merry.
Christmas time reminds us of God’s gift, and to celebrate this glorious event we gather with family and friends to share time and meals, thoughts and feelings, and recent happy events and troubles; and most importantly we gather to worship God to thank God for the gift of His Son.
In the Divine Liturgy, we celebrate the joy of His Resurrection. But, before we celebrate the Resurrection, we suffer the Crucifixion, and before the Crucifixion we rejoice at His Baptism, and before that His Nativity. His Birth starts the salvation cycle of His saving Grace. Yes, we are joyous and merry at Christmas time even though we will wind the rocky road to the Resurrection.
The best way to celebrate with family and friends is to be grounded in prayer and worship; otherwise our celebration can lead us astray into depending or seeking after joy in material things. What kind of gifts shall we give? The answer, of course, is ourselves and the good news of the gospel.
Sharing time and meals is the best gift to exchange because we share with each other our hearts, we replenish our souls. Having a heart-to-heart with a friend or relative will be remembered for a long time, even to our dying day, because we bonded with each other, we gained from each other, we grew closer to each other by removing barriers or misunderstandings. Material things break, or rust, or deteriorate, or go out of style, but a heart-to- heart conversation lasts a lifetime.
Oh, it is okay to give and to exchange gifts, but let us not get carried away. Let us not think the material things will fulfill our souls or bring us happiness for more than a day or two; and let us not go into hock to buy all those “great” bargains to regret it when the credit card statements come in January. Do you remember the material gift you gave or received last Christmas or the ones from three or more years ago? But, I am certain you do remember a satisfying conversation, a forthright opening up, a friendly exchange of dreams, ideas, and even disappointments.
Pity the person who is all alone on Christmas Day. Even the first family of Mary and Joseph were joined by angels, shepherds, sheep, an ox, and an ass. They were not alone even if there was no room in the Inn. We need each other as much as we need God in our lives.
Some of you, like me, are getting to the point in life where material gifts are nice but either useless or superfluous. How many more of this and that do we need? I remember asking my parents what they wanted for Christmas and they said “nothing,” just come and visit us with your wife and children. At the time I could not understand or appreciate this thinking. Now I can. Another something or other won’t fill our empty hearts as a hug and kiss will, or a good conversation to grow closer to break down walls or remove separation. To enjoy each other’s company, to share a meal, is to get refreshed and renewed, is to become whole.
As much as we look forward to greeting and spending time with our children, our heavenly Father looks forward and is pleased when we spend time with Him. Just as much as we love our children and miss them so does our heavenly Father love us and miss us. Just as much as we long to hear from our children our heavenly Father wants to hear from us. Just as we gave life to our children with His help, He gave life to us in this world, and if we are faithful eternal life in the next world as well.
Christmas is a time to thank God for His love for us in sending His Son to dwell among us, and to return this love by loving Him back with our whole soul, our whole mind, our whole strength and our neighbor as ourselves. It is a time to renew our faithfulness to God, to walk humbly with Him, to see eye to eye with Him, to keep His commandments, and to praise, bless, and glorify Him. Christmas is a time to be merry by understanding what really cosmic event we are celebrating – God entering into His Creation to dwell among us. It is like getting a personal visit from a dignitary like a king or queen, or president, or a sports star, or a rock star, or other celebrity but it is more awesome because He created and sustains us. He will come to our aid and He will judge us at the end of time. He is not your ordinary bear!
So, this Christmas let us celebrate God’s gift to us of His Son, thank Him for His love and mercy, and enter into a more intimate relationship with Him just as we enter a more intimate relationship with our parents and our children.
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
A Merry and Joyous Christmas to one and all!
St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church is located near St. Petersburg,
Florida and parishioners come from the surrounding areas of Largo,
Clearwater, Pinellas Park, Tampa, and St. Petersburg. St. Nicholas is a growing church of about 65 families of various ethnic backgrounds. In addition, St. Nicholas has many members who are former members of Roman Catholic and Protestant faiths. As always, visitors are welcome and parishioners are encouraged to bring their Orthodox and non-Orthodox friends to attend the liturgy.
The Antiochian Orthodox Church, of which St. Nicholas is a part, traces its origins to the church in Antioch, the capital of ancient Syria, that was established by the apostles Peter and Paul. Though the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America was founded in the late 19th century to serve immigrants from Syria and Lebanon, today it embraces Americans of all races and cultures.
The church has grown, in part, because it generally conducts its services in English, unlike most other North American Orthodox branches, whose services are usually in the native tongue of the group it originally was created to serve. The use of English and a growing disillusionment among members of other denominations have helped the Antiochian Orthodox church to grow.
Such interest has made the 500,000 member Antiochian Orthodox Church the third largest branch of the Orthodox faith in America, behind the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and the Orthodox Church in America with its Russian roots.
St. Nicholas also participates in a number of programs in our community to assist those in need, as well as programs at the national and international level to assist those dealing with poverty, natural disasters and the victims of war.