Glancing at the first line from the first Ode of the Canon of the Nativity, we are reminded of the miraculous nature of birth of Jesus. So miraculous, that the whole universe anticipated it for thousands of years, the heavens offer a dancing star, the earth a welcoming cave, the angels praise Him with the shepherds and the Magi arrive bearing gifts. The Virgin offers her womb and we… well we can do nothing but give glory for ‘Christ is upon earth’, Immanuel, Christ is with us (Isaiah 7:14)!
Looking at the icon of the Nativity of Christ, we notice that the bed of the baby Jesus resembles a coffin, and we also see that the Christ-child is wrapped in swaddling clothes (Luke 2:7,12) – the linen strips that were used to prepare the departed for burial. This imagery in the icon signifies the sacrificial intention of the Incarnation, for it shows that Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6), was not only born to show us the way to heaven and reveal the truth about God, but also to conquer death by His death so that we may have life in His Kingdom. Thus, His birth is not only a miraculous cosmic event, but also a new creation in Christ.
On the premise that we believe in Him, this new creation manifests itself when we elect to live a ‘new life’ in Christ, to be re-born so to speak, by putting to death all of our bad habits and passions, to come out of ourselves and embrace a godly way of life. Actually, this movement on our part is a reciprocation of Christ’s actions, who, while being the eternal Son of God, the Creator, King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16), emptied Himself of all His glory in order that He may become a humble servant to serve and renew His creation.
Reiterating the words of St Athanasius, God became man so that man may become god by grace. This is the great mystery of the Incarnation, fulfilling the work of God, which began in Paradise while man was still in spiritual infancy. This work is now completed, paving the way for the new creation. We can all participate in this even before its consummation at the end of this age, as we progress in spiritual maturity. This reality was experienced by the Saints of our Church and especially the Most-Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.
Yearning for this new life, may we all have a joyous Christmas. As the first Ode concludes, “Christ is upon the earth, let us all be exalted”. Let us give Glory to God in the Highest (Luke 2:14), for we have been visited from on high and we have been invited to join the heavenly angelic choirs who praise Him, singing Alleluia!