A Sermon on the Nativity of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ By Metropolitan Moses of Toronto
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
On the day of our Savior’s birth, the shepherds heard the glad tidings of our salvation from a vision of angels who chanted, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14) From that time on, a new path has been given unto us that enables us to participate in God’s glory, peace and goodwill. That path is a life lived in imitation of the God Who became man for us. The God-Man has appeared and all Christians are called to participate in a Divine-Human existence. In His prayer to the Father before His voluntary passion, our Savior spoke of His disciples and explained to us that those who respond to His call and choose to live according to His word and participate in this Divine-Human existence live in the world, yet they are His chosen who are separate from the world:
I have manifested Thy name unto the men whom Thou gavest Me out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me; and they have kept Thy word. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine. And all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine; and I am glorified in them. (John 18:6, 9-10) and, “…they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 18:16) and, “Sanctify them in Thy truth: Thy word is truth…That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one.” (John 18:17, 21-22)
One who chooses to love God with all their heart and soul and strength and mind lives in the world, yet, ‘loves not the world, neither the things of the world,’ “…for all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” (1John 2:15-17)
Our Lord showed us how we are to turn away from “the things of the world,” and participate in His Divine-Human existence by His very life. He called us to imitate His life, saying:
“If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it. (Luke 9:23-24)
Our God was born into the world to grant us participation in a Divine-Human existence, yet it is the daily exercise of our free will that determines whether or not we partake of this gift. The cross is normally associated with toil and pain; yet, the cross is the only way to true happiness. This seems to be a contradiction to the carnally minded man, yet, as Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky once wrote:
There is one condition for happiness, brothers, — to willingly refuse happiness, riches, glory, the desire for health, and rest. The followers of Christ turned their hearts away from everything for which people had formerly striven, and set their hearts on virtue alone, and came to love everything.
And so, the new life in Christ consists in willingly renouncing worldly goods and not grieving when they are taken away by force. Perhaps you cannot direct your mind this way at once. But to the extent that you willingly deprive yourself of earthly enjoyments, however reluctantly: by fasting, by renouncing yourself by giving to the poor or giving way to others, by not becoming angry or taking revenge for oppression, but bearing offences in silence; — to the extent that you crucify the old man in yourself — to this extent will a new fount of grace-filled life flow out of your heart. “He that believeth on Me,” says the Lord, “out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (Jn. 7:38).
It is no longer either riches, or health, or glory, or the destruction of enemies that will make you rejoice, but, just as a farmer rejoices over a ripening field, or a hunter over a lot of wild fowl fluttering about, or an artist over the beauty of a sunset — so you will rejoice over prayer, spiritual reading and the opportunity to be kind to your neighbor, either by giving, or consoling one who is grieving, calming one who is angry, or bringing a villain to his senses.
Christ is born to call us to a new life and reconcile us to Himself. Christ is born to move us from the depths of our heart and soul so that we freely choose Him and respond to Him.
We exist by the will of God and our salvation is a free gift that He wills to give us, but our participation in this gift depends on our will. May no one who hears these words let any passion or any person or any attachment lead them astray. May you all live a new life in Christ, a Divine-Human life, that becomes a source of Divine joy and happiness and peace that transcends the things of this world, through the grace and love of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, with His Un-originate Father and His all Holy and Life Creating Spirit. Amen.