Christmas Coptic Articles Index
The Glorious Feast of Nativity:
"Love is the source of righteousness in the heart, a port of understanding, rivers of water for life, and knowing the secrets of both the known and unknown worlds. Love is a language understood by the angels." (St. John Saba, the Spiritual Elder)
The Old Testament records that mankind had fallen, and been driven out of
paradise; but God in His continuing love, desired to restore man to his
original state. Ezekiel the prophet and priest prophesied this great,
everlasting, restorative love of God for his people in spite of their
rebellion for which they had deserved to be exiled, and their temple to be
destroyed. Jerusalem, at the time, "her nativity was from the land of Canaan
and her father was an Amorite and her mother a Hittite" (Ezekiel 16:3) had
been entirely unfaithful to God. That was the status of God’s relationship
with Jerusalem and, symbolically, all of Israel.
"When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine, says the Lord God" (Ezekiel 16:8).
With these prophetic words, God reinstates His inexhaustible love despite Israel’s immoral and idolatrous life; and in so doing, He describes an Old Covenant relationship to the one Jerusalem He was to be forever faithful unto.
However, man’s restoration to his original pure state he was created in, was practically inconceivable. For, how could the establishment of such an eternally necessary, yet lost condition for man's soul be achieved? Nevertheless, God defied the inconceivable with the only one answer: the Incarnation of the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. The Lord Jesus Christ must take upon Himself a complete human body through which, on behalf of man's evil ways, He would pay the punishment of death man himself should have paid. So great was man’s intent disobedience; and consequently, so great the price.
This heavenly mandate is profoundly expressed in a Letter to Diognetus (c. 125-200),
"Truly God Himself, who is Almighty, the Creator of all things, and invisible, has sent from Heaven, and placed among men, the One who is the Truth, and the Holy and Incomprehensible Word... God did not, as one might have imagined, send to men any servant, angel, or ruler…Rather, He sent the very Creator and Fashioner of all things—by whom He made the Heavens... As a king sends his son, who is also a king, so God sent Him. He sent Him as God."
But before the Lord Jesus Christ was to painfully pay for our sins; He would
come to show us a real, true, and complete love. The Apostle St. Paul refers
to this love as "a more excellent way" (I Corinthians 12:31). A new and
lasting covenant would be brought about.
The Glorious Nativity was and continues to be a limitless, timeless measure of God's unceasing love for mankind.
God's unbound love honors man; because firstly, God created man in "His image and according to His likeness" (Genesis 1:27). Secondly, He Himself became a living, earthly human being. Thus, The Nativity has forever established for and imprinted upon us all the presence of God's perfect love. The creation of the entire world did not extract from God anything other than "Let it be done and it was done". So mankind was capable of treasuring creation at no cost at all; neither to nor from God. That is why God's redeeming love for the world He had created, its very salvation, had dearly cost Him to come down from Heaven and take upon Him the mundane nuisance and trials of human existence. And the cost, we all know, did not stop there...
Through God's love, the Glorious Nativity heralded the foundation of man's redemption.
The Ante-Nicene Father, Irenaeus (c. 180) wrote:
"Thus He indicates in clear terms that He is God, and that His Advent was in Bethlehem…God then, was made man, and the Lord did Himself save us."
Many precious blessings are derived from the Incarnation;
The comforting Spirit of God promises to abide in and with the faithful
forever, "And I will pray the Father and He will give you another Helper,
that He may abide with you forever. However, when He, the Spirit of truth,
has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own
authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things
to come" (John 14:16, 16:13). The Lord Jesus Christ is saying that He will
go away; but the Helper (God) remains and abides with us forever.
The Holy Spirit renews creation; so that whoever believes in the Lord Jesus Christ and receives the Holy Mystery of Baptism, becomes a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17). It is their nativity so to speak. Old things are passed away; and new things have come to be. At the moment of salvation, through the Holy Mystery of Baptism, man comes into union with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. This is the greatest miracle we witness happen in Christianity nowadays.
The Holy Spirit sanctifies the water of Baptism to give a new birth (nativity) to the baptized person who then, at that moment, becomes an authentic child of God.
Yes, following baptism, it can be rightfully said that man has become an actual child of God. "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God" (I John 3:1). We have become "sons of God" through the loving Creator’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ "just as He [the Father] chose us in Him [the Lord Jesus Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love" (Ephesians 1:4).
We have often heard preached: "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is
of God; and everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God. He, who does
not love, does not know God, for God is Love. In this love of God, was
manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the
world, which we might live through Him" (I John 4:7-9). During this time of
the Holy Nativity, let us search for a deeper meaning within this verse of
the younger disciple who has been labeled the "beloved of Christ" and
discover that "God is love" is not a definition of who God is, but a
revelation of the nature of His relationship to us as our continuously
St. John's Holy Gospel has often been called the "Spiritual Gospel" whose major theme is the eternal Son of God Who has come in the flesh. The Holy Gospel of St. John has been written so that we may "believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His Holy Name" (John 20:31). Not only has St. John become known as "the beloved disciple"; but his great and unceasing love for the Lord, has earned him the position of "the theologian," the first among only three commonly recognized so...
This "Son of Thunder" loved the Lord Jesus Christ while he was a fisherman, an apostle, a pillar in the Jerusalem Church, an authority in Ephesus, and finally an exile in the island of Patmos. Throughout his almost one hundred years on earth, he had reflected to others his perpetual love to the Lord. St. John, the Beloved, returned unto the Lord His same, freely bestowed love. The beloved apostle had most certainly earned the denotation of "beloved".
For those who had lived during the time of the Glorious Nativity, the Incarnation had been the summit of God's continuing loving promises to His people; for us the following believers the most important proclamation of God's love to man. Unlike in the Old Testament prophets' times, in the New Testaments times, God came to us with a new relationship; one that would never be threatened by evil nor overcome by sin. This is what was foretold and would come to be known as the New Covenant.
The love of the Lord Jesus Christ and His grace far excels our inheritance from Adam; surpassing the Old Covenant. "But the free gift is not like the offense" (Romans 5:15). The saving grace and love of the Lord Jesus Christ is free for those who choose to live a life of faith. Righteousness and life are to be One (One God).
There are many spiritual benefits to the Incarnation; to have eternal life is a great spiritual benefit. To be united with God forever is another important benefit; to enjoy eternal glory is definitely a significant benefit. But the most important of all spiritual benefits, it can be said, is the potential of being in the presence of God's perfect love forever.
St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215) in his Ante-Nicene writings,
beautifully expressed this by writing,
"The best thing on earth is the most pious man. The best thing in Heaven, the nearer in place and purer, is an angel, the partaker of the eternal and blessed life. But the nature of the Son, which is nearest to Him who is alone the Almighty One, is the most perfect, most holy, most potent, most princely, most kingly, and most beneficent. This is the highest excellence, who orders all things in accordance with the Father's Will and holds the helm of the universe in the best of ways."
During this season of the Glorious Nativity, may we all return unto the Lord
the continuing, perpetual love He has given unto us first. "Blessed is He
who comes in the Name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:39).
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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