Category: Eastern Orthodox
This week I was upset about the fact that everywhere I go in Odessa I see Grandfather Frost decor and zero nativity sets. I did manage to find one pretty small one of relatively poor quality. I have since been informed that many churches do build their own. It remains very noticeable though that communism did an overwhelmingly excellent job of removing Christ from Christmas. Here, the New Year holiday has been exalted above Christmas. A friend told me they even have red communist stars for the trees and this was confirmed by myself as I browsed the stores decor.
Upon event of my being a little upset about this and having grand images of a countrywide campaign to put Christ back into Christmas, a pastor friend encouraged me to create a flyer with some space for a personal note which we could translate into Russian and leave with our neighborhhod friends inviting them to church. Hence…
It’s hard to imagine the government suddenly moving our traditional Christmas holiday three months earlier to September. Christmas is literally celebrated in some fashion on every continent of the globe. For all of us, worldwide, whether we celebrate it December 25th or January 7th it means something far more significant than a winter solstice praising Saturn, the mythological god of the harvest (3rd century BC Rome). Hopefully it means something far greater than merely exchanging gifts with our loved ones. The Sovereign God must’ve known the comfort and the blessing we’d receive from hearing the Christmas story each year through the sound of carols, the beauty of the glowing lights against the snowy backdrops, and the cheer of meeting with our relatives in a warm home, safe and secure from the biting winter cold. Somehow it all seems to fit.
Historically, when we study old Jewish customs, we discover that shepherds did not usually have their sheep out at night after the “first rain”, which began in October. The Gospel of Luke 2:8 tells us, “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Christ may have been born born in the fall. It can be debated whether the 4th century western church Christianized a pagan festival, which took place nine months after the day they celebrated the virgin conception or the eastern church had already been remembering the incarnation on December 6th. Whatever we believe about the past, today January 7th can be redeemed and established in our hearts as a day to exalt the living Christ child in recognition of God’s redemptive mission.
There are many distractions that come with the Holidays and it can be a depressing time for some less fortunate souls. The important thing is that we remember the love Jesus had for us all when He emptied Himself of His throne and took on flesh. This sacrifice of being born in such a humble state, to suffer as a man, was the greatest gift anyone ever gave and anyone ever received. This price was paid for the poorest beggar to the wealthiest snob.
The greatest question for all of us is not whether St. Nicolas is Santa Claus or Grandfather Frost, whether he had nine flying reindeer or three horses, little helper elves or a granddaughter, or whether he has a magic scepter or sneaks down the chimney from the roof while all the children are sleeping. The most pressing question is what the incarnation means to us. We invite you to remember with us the importance of the words from the prophet Isaiah (8th century BC) and together we can put Christ back into the center of Christmas and back into the center of our lives.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.”
And after shortening it up a tad, translation, and some design editing we came up with a final pruduct! Praise God!/Slava Bogoo!