Celebrating Faith, family and folk: Merry Christmas to All

Comrades the time for the celebration of the birth of our Lord is here. While those on the Western calendar will get the privilege a few days before those of us on the Orthodox calendar, we all should be united in celebration of the Nativity. It is times like Christmas that we all should take account of the past year and reflect upon it.

This “current year” has been one that has been like a roller coaster in regards to issues of both Faith and politics for those of us behind enemy lines in America and Western Europe. The celebration of the Nativity should refocus us as Christians and as stewards of our ethnic extended family to recharge our batteries in preparation for what is shaping up to be another year in the trenches in the battle for Faith, family and folk.

The celebration of the Nativity should be at the forefront of our minds in this holiday season. Saint John of Kronstadt said,

Let us all humble ourselves; let us all fall down in the dust before the boundless humility and exhaustion of the Sovereign of all, of God, Who has come to heal our infirmities, to save us from pride, vanity, corruption, and every sinful impurity.

The Son of God who can command the powers of the universe came to us in all humility, as a child in a manger wrapped in poor swaddling clothes.

If Christ Himself can humble Himself in this manner, how can we as followers of Christ not do everything we can to leave behind all pretenses of power, pride, and self-love? We as Christians must have humility be the cornerstone of everything we do, the opposite of what the world in its prideful ideology of self admiration and self gratification promotes to us.

Humility is the antidote to the various poisons of modernity because it is pride that is the root of almost every sin. Pride drives the individual to believe that he does not need to follow the Commandments of God and instead knows better than the Creator of the universe. Pride is what led Satan into rebellion and it is this same notion that leads each of us, myself included, into sin on a daily basis.

Elder Sampson said “The drunkard, the fornicator, the proud—he will receive God’s mercy. But he who does not want to forgive, to excuse, to justify consciously, intentionally … that person closes himself to eternal life before God, and even more so in the present life. He is turned away and not heard by God.” To simply remember Christ in the Nativity is not enough, we must live out the message of the Nativity which is humility, love and self sacrifice.

Let us use this holy season to make amends for our missteps throughout the year and to give the ultimate gift to our friends, family, and our enemies; that of love and forgiveness. This is a gift that helps our brothers and sisters and helps us individually because humility, love and forgiveness are the three things that help lead us on our path to salvation.

With the Christmas season it is also important to work to connect with our families, the foundation of both the nation and our individual spiritual lives. Each individual is part of something larger than him or herself, as part of the Divine Order as established by God Himself. A man is a part of a family, then his extended family, then his community and then the nation as a whole. Each of us are called to be servants of our communities, to spiritually and physically tend to others with compassion and share the Gospel and its tenants with all.

Take time this Christmas season to pray with your family, to be thankful for your many blessings and to pray for our souls and that we might be pleasing to God in this year and every year that He blesses us with life. Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica said “It is of great significance if there is a person who truly prays in a family. Prayer attracts God’s Grace and all the members of the family feel it, even those whose hearts have grown cold. Pray always.”

Prayer in a family is what strengthens a family against temptations, it is a glue to hold the members of the family together and it encourages spiritual growth for all those within the household. Christmas should be a time to look at our busy schedules and refocus on our lives around the principles of the Faith with prayer being one of the most important elements of this. Strong families build strong nations and one cannot have a strong family without first having a strong and devoted prayer life.

Scripture tells us “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest.” We must be the laborers to go forward into the world, especially in this dark and degenerate age to tend to the harvest and work to save souls. Just as Christ came into this world to save sinners, we must follow His example to do the same.

"For the greatest thing is charity, and moderation, and almsgiving" -Saint John Chrysostom

“For the greatest thing is charity, and moderation, and almsgiving” -Saint John Chrysostom

Charity during the Christmas season is a wonderful opportunity to help both the people in our communities and help us in our spiritual journey. Gifts are to be given not to gain praise from others, but to help those in need and let them know the love that we have for them. The Lord said: “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me” and with this message we should be active in helping those less fortunate than us in this season.

There are many who are hungry both physically and spiritually, those who are naked both in the material sense and in the spiritual sense and those who are crying out for assistance but do not yet know how to call upon the mercies of our Lord. We should help both believers and non-believers because it is through charity we can show Christian love to our brothers and sisters in Christ and we can evangelize the Gospel to those who do not yet know Christ. Charity is at the heart of the Christian life so as we celebrate the ultimate gift from God, the coming of Christ, we should bestow as much as we can upon those in need.

St. Nikolai Velimirovich told his followers a story in which,

A certain man in Constantinople was unusually merciful. Walking along the streets of the city, he would press his gift into the hands of the poor and hurry onward, so he would not hear their gratitude or be recognized. When a friend of his asked how he had become so merciful, he replied: ‘Once in church I heard a priest say that whoever gives to the poor, gives into the hands of Christ Himself. I didn’t believe it, for I thought, ‘How can this be, when Christ is in heaven?’ However, I was on my way home one day and I saw a poor man begging, and the face of Christ shone above his head! Just then a passerby gave the beggar a piece of bread, and I saw the Lord extend His hand, take the bread, and bless the donor. From then on, I have always seen Christ’s face shining above the beggars. Therefore, with great fear I perform as much charity as I can.’'”

Charity is doing God’s work and with it we too become closer to Christ and are blessed because Christ is the embodiment of selfless giving to all those who need it.

Brothers and sisters, I encourage each and every one of you to reject the materialist and individualist spirit of the modern American “Christmas” and instead celebrate the Nativity of our Lord and Savior in the way that our ancestors did, with love, humility and thanksgiving. Christmas is just one part of the liturgical calendar of our Church but it begins our Faith journey from a small manger in Bethlehem to lead to the eventual heroic conquering of death and sin at Holy Pascha.

Let us fill our lamps in anticipation of this coming year with the spirit of love, charity, Faith and prayer to enable us to be good and faithful servants to our Lord in this coming year. May all of you have a blessed and Merry Christmas and as always please my brothers and sisters; pray for me, a sinner.

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