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 Adapted Reflection for December 15th:   Come to the Dark Side -- uh, NO!!
 



Editor’s note
:  Let All Creation Rejoice:  Reflections for Advent, the Nativity, and Epiphany, 
by Greek Orthodox priest, Father Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, is a series of short daily reflections on the scripture readings of the season, to be read by Eastern Christians from November 15th to January 7th.   The story of the Nativity is told in a mere 40 verses of Scripture – 19 in the Gospel of Matthew, 20 in the Gospel of Luke, and 1 in the Gospel of John.   Yet nearly every word is filled with meaning! Spending a few minutes each day reading and reflecting on these scriptures will change our hearts and enable us to better understand the “good news of a great joy” and why  “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

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When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and all of Jerusalem with him…..” [Matthew 2.3-6].  Every good story has a villain, and in the Nativity story that “villain” is King Herod.   There are a lot of “King Herods” in the world today, i.e. people who misunderstand who Christ is and count him out, the King of Peace, as an enemy.  They hate the One who personifies love.


It always perplexes me how people could be up in arms with the Ten Commandments being placed on the wall of a courthouse.  Not only are they the foundations of Western law, but how can people object to the ideas of “thou shalt not steal,” or “thou shalt not commit murder?”  People get angry at Christmas tree displays.  I understand getting angry at people, but I’ve never gotten angry at a tree. The name Christmas itself gets bad press.  Ironically, I’m more likely to wish someone a “Blessed Nativity” than a “Merry Christmas” – I wonder which is more offensive.


The world has turned Christmas into a holiday of material gain.   Commercialism is ruining the season.   Stress has overtaken joy.   “King Herod” and his cohorts are still trying to ruin Christmas.


So, if we are supposed to be seekers like the Magi, and if we are supposed to be trusting like the Magi, then we have to be focused like the Magi.   The Magi were undeterred by the plotting of King Herod.    They kept their focus only on finding Christ.  And once they found him, they stayed away from Herod. Not wanting to betray the Savior they had come to know, they went back to their country by a different way.


Sometimes it seems like the easier thing to do to just give in to the crowd, rather than do what feels like paddling upstream.  It’s easier just to go to the parties than maintain the Nativity Fast.   It’s easier to just say “Happy Holidays” than risk offending someone with “Merry Christmas.”   It’s easier to let the darkness of this season cover up the Light of Christ.   No one, however, said that being a Christian would be easy.   The hero in any story always has to overcome adversity and defeat the villain.   Jesus tells us in Matthew 5.14-16:  You are the light of the world.   A city set on a hill cannot be hid.   Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”


One of the responsibilities of the Christian is to be a light in the world, and that’s not always easy to do.   


If the feast of the Nativity is about the presence of Christ the Light coming into the world, even the placement of the feast on the calendar has to do with light.    No one knows the date of the Nativity.  The date of the Crucifixion has been traced to the 13th day of the Jewish month of Nissan, right before Passover.  So we know that the Crucifixion occurred in the spring.    We do not know what season the Nativity occurred in.  We know that the Nativity occurred somewhere between 6 and 4 BC based on when King Herod died, which was shortly after the slaughter of the Innocents, which occurred two years after the Nativity.


The feast of the Nativity was placed in December in the year 336 AD.  There were others holidays celebrated at this time of year including the pagan feast of the solstice, or the shortest day of the year.    Whether the Nativity was placed on December 25th in order to compete with the pagan holiday, or because other holidays were celebrated at that time of year in society – hence the holiday season – what is a beautiful symbolism is that after the solstice, December 21st, the days begin to get longer, the light begins to overtake the darkness.  Through the Nativity, the Light of Christ begins to overcome the darkness of sin.  


As we prepare to celebrate the Nativity, we must think of the “lightness” of the shepherds and the Magi.   The shepherds were poor, the Magi were powerful, but both were filled with the Light of Christ because both had faith.    Herod and his court were filled with the darkness of jealousy and power.   We must stand up for what we believe in.   For the Lord blesses those who praise him and sanctifies those who put their trust in him (from the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom). 


There are lots of roles in the Nativity story for us to play – Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the Magi – King Herod is the one role we should not want to play.



 

O Christ, the true Light that enlightens and sanctifies
every man who comes into the world, 
let the light of your countenance shine upon us,
that in it we may behold the unapproachable Light.
And direct our steps to keep your commandments,
by the intercessions of your all-immaculate Mother and all the saints.  Amen”

 [Prayer from the First Royal Hour for the Nativity]