“Come, let us greatly rejoice in the Lord as we tell of this present mystery. The middle wall of partition has been destroyed; the flaming sword turns back, the cherubim withdraw from the tree of life, and I partake of the delight of Paradise from which I was cast out through disobedience” (Vespers Stichera for the Feast of the Nativity by Germanos).
Once again, it is time for the Joy of our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ, to permeate and entwine with our lives in this glorious Feast of His Nativity. Once again, it is time for His Immense Love for us to carry us back to His Father. Once again, it is time for the Wisdom of God to confront our hearts and preconceptions, as the Son of God takes upon Himself our humanity that we might participate in Divinity.
So, how do we receive this beautifully loving and sacrificial Gift? How do we give thanks for this Gift? And most importantly, how do we care for this Gift?
We are called into Communion with God; this is why we are created. God created us in His Image and Likeness—and it is only in joining into a relationship with Him that we find fulfillment and purpose. Yet, with each time we sin, we break that relationship. And it is this brokenness that Christ, in His Love for us, comes to heal. We receive this healing by participating in our Lord, Jesus Christ through partaking of His Body and His Blood. We are all called to approach the Holy Chalice every time it is offered—just as we are all called into Communion with God. And the only way to participate in that Holy Communion, is through Jesus Christ. When we receive this beautifully loving and sacrificial Gift of Christ—we enter into a union with Him as His Body—and so doing, enter into the One Loving Relationship with the Holy Trinity itself!
As we can see, receiving the Gift of God’s Christ is the fulfillment of the promise present in our creation. Giving thanks for this Gift is first of all offered through receiving it. We must come to receive Christ in the Holy Eucharist in order to participate in this relationship with Him! This means that we must prepare ourselves to receive Christ—unworthy though we may be. We must be initiated into the relationship through Holy Baptism and Chrismation, offer ourselves regularly in Holy Repentance (Confession), and fast as best as we are able according to the prescriptions of the Church.
We also give thanks for this Gift in how we prioritize it in our lives. We are called to live from “Communion to Communion” moving from one opportunity to be in communion with Christ (and through Him, with God) to the next. We are called to live Eucharistically-centered lives—that is—our very lives should be centered on Thanksgiving!
One of the most important ways to give thanks to God is in the understanding and realization that all that we are, and all that we have received in our lives, comes from Him. As the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom elucidates, “Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from Thee, the Father of Lights…” And ultimately, we do not “own” or “possess” anything. Thus, we continuously are called to offer to God what is His own, from His own.
Essentially, when we live life in this continuous thanksgiving for Christ, our entire perspective on the world is transformed. No longer can we look at the things in our life as anything but a Gift from God. We are being prepared by God to enter into Eternal Communion with Him. The joys we experience are recognized as the fruit of this Communion. Even the very suffering we endure becomes a Gift which prepares us for the “weight of Glory” which is to come!
Our very thanksgiving for this Gift of Christ becomes a life of Stewardship—of caring for this Gift that is not our own. We care for this Gift of Communion with Him by living a life in which we dedicate all that we are—our Time, our Talents, and our Treasures—to God in thanksgiving for all that He has done for us. Thus, when we offer ourselves to the Church, our offering is no longer considered to be “in support” of our local parish, but as an offering of Thanksgiving to God. Our offering is then utilized by God in whatever manner He sees fit, unto His Glory.
The Great Patriarch Abraham provides a wonderful example of this life of Thanksgiving to God. When Abraham defeated Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the High Priest King Melchizadek of Salem offered a thanksgiving offering to the Most High God. In gratitude to God for His Graciousness in delivering Abraham’s enemies to his hand, and to participate in this thanksgiving offering of Melchizadek, Abraham offers ten percent of the spoils of war to the Priest King. He offered that which God had freely given him back to God in thanks for the blessing—what we are called to do in everything in our lives!
Therefore, as we can see, the only way to care for this Gift of Christ which God so freely gives to us on this, His Nativity, is to place the whole of creation in its proper context. It is a gift, created by God and freely given to us—for which we are to continuously give thanks. We are never to place more importance on the created world than we do on God. This is what the Gift of Our Lord’s Incarnation reveals to us. This is what it means to fulfill a relationship with God in Christ. A relationship into which we are all called, that will enable us to participate in the Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God the Father, and the Communion of the Holy Spirit both now, and forever!