I behold a strange and paradoxical Mystery!
—Katavasia of the Ninth Ode, Feast of the Nativity
Some two thousand years ago, shepherds near Bethlehem beheld angels singing: “Glory to God in the highest! On earth peace, goodwill to men!”(Luke 2:14) Yet the days following were not, and have not been by all appearances, peaceful. “The Child given to us,” as the Prophet Isaiah foretold, would eventually undergo His Passion and Crucifixion in a world rebelling against God. Ever since, the violence of the world seems to preclude any sense of peace on earth. There have been wars, great upheavals, terrorism abroad and more recently in our own nation, not to mention continual violence in our streets.
A theologian of our Church spoke of the “hallucinatory disfiguration of the world” because of sin. The most extreme evil—the murder of our fellow human beings—continues and appears to be thriving. But this is the “hallucination”; the reality is that sin and evil are defeated. What we now observe is not the power of evil, but the spiteful death-throes of a defeated enemy.
This is the paradox, for the Mystery is the Emmanuel, “God with us,” our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is, Himself, the Life of the World. He has conquered death by death. In faith, in confident trust in God, we know that the hate, violence, blasphemies, and abominations of this world have already been overcome. “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
The strange Mystery is revealed to us: God becomes human, born into the world marked by evil and dangers, as a defenseless, dependent child in humble circumstances. Christmas demonstrates the paradox that the giant Goliath of evil is slain not by a more violent force, but by the heir of David’s more powerful and humble love, even to death on the Cross. Even so, we pray in this season for all those suffering, that they and we find peace, and experience the goodwill of which the angels sang. This begins with us, the Body of Christ. Let us glorify Christ born into this world, and let us fulfill our Great Commission, for then the world shall find peace in, with, and through the goodwill of Christ Jesus, born into our own hearts and spread throughout the world by faith, hope and love. This is the true meaning of Christmas, and may the Nativity of our Lord be filled with light, and gladsome rejoicing in the light of our Savior!
With Paternal Blessings,
Metropolitan IAKOVOS of Chicago