25 december, 2012
Author: Sergey Ryakhosky, no comments
In the recent times, we more and more frequently can see news about “non-religious” celebration of Christmas. And this is not a purely European situation. Last Christmas, only slightly more than 2 million people came to churches for Christmas services; it was about 1.5% of all residents. In Moscow, about 90 thousand people took part in the Christmas service: it was less than 1% of Moscow residents. With that people actively decorate their homes and Christmas trees, give presents to each other, participate in contests and enjoy sales. These facts show the already set trend: people like nice traditions and holidays, but they are not concerned with the spiritual background of the events taking place.
Might be, this is not so bad at all? May be this kind of reaction of contemporaries makes us, Christians, remember that the story of the Savior’s Birth is not just a holy story but the New Testament which is translated from the Greek language as “joyful news?”
Let’s give it a thought: what is joyful in this news for a person of our times? We live in cities where one can find pleasures for any tastes. Shopping and entertainment malls, exhibits, bright shows and many other things exist to let modern people experience joy at any time. If we miss warmth in winters and coolness in summers, we can easily fly to any other place all over the world and get what we want. What joy can we find in the fact that more than two thousand years ago Jesus was born in a small provincial place in a barn?
News is by far the most important thing for a modern person. We want to be in course of all things taking place: political news, currency rates, price quotations -- everything must be at hand, because the situation might change later in the day. What might be new in a story two thousand years old for a person living in the world of permanently updated information?
We can disapprove this world for its vanity and loss of true values. But the Christmas story shows us an absolutely different God: the God who comes into this world and gives it a value by this. People have lost their faith and started to value worthless things not yesterday and not a hundred years ago. When Jesus was born in a Bethlehem barn, people then also did not care of Him. The Emperor of Rome was busy with budget issues (enumeration of the population in the course of which Jesus was born had been carried out for regularization of taxation); priests were concerned about the rituals and order in temples; Herod was busy with preservation and succession of the authority. Simple people were also pretty busy: some with trade, some with their personal lives. But He came to this world to show that not only sins and indifference are there in this world: there also are the beauty, love and compassion. He was born because proper laws and regulations cannot be enough for people. Christmas reminds us that commandments are not the most important things in the Christianity, but the Embodied God Who came to people to share our lives with Him.
“He is here, now, among the sporadic vanity, among the earthly excitements and troubles,” this way the Russian philosopher Vladimir Soloviev expressed his emotions in connection with the Christmas secret. Apostle Johann wrote: “And the Word turned into Flesh, and inhabited with us, full of delight and truth…” (Johann 1:14). In the Greek language, the word “inhabited” meant “spread a tented roof.” Not a palace, not a temple, but an ordinary tent. The God came to share our everyday life, our routine, the ordinary life of ordinary people: office fuss, traffic jams and crowding of public transportation, domestic labor. Christmas is evidence that here, in our common life, we can encounter with Him and this might change all our lives. Christmas is an invitation to keep eyes and hearts open to not to pass the miracle.
These days, one of my friends shared his story. When he was in a different city he lost an expensive telephone. He already said good bye to it and the records he had there, but quite unexpectedly, a gentleman who found this telephone called his friend. Next day, they met and the finder not only gave the telephone back but declined any remuneration with the words, “I will not take any money, but please give me a promise that if you ever find someone’s piece yourself, you will also give it back for free.” If we want to meet Christ in the modern world, we need to do something of the kind.
We got used to see the God as someone who punishes unfairness. Some Christians even believe that the sacred duty of each true believer is to help Him with it. But the history of Christmas tells us about a different God: “He came to this world ‘full of delight and truth.” It was preeminently the delight, an undeserved favor, and not fairness Christ brought to the humanity.
We often encounter with unfairness, and this causes an absolutely understandable indignation. However, unfortunately, fighting for the truth only multiplies encounters. All our conflicts – from the war in the Far East to communal conflicts – show the deficit not of the fairness but delight. It was exactly the deficit of delight which dictated the initiative to prohibit adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens. However, while battles between supporters and opponents of this prohibition are taking place, right here, next to us, there are hundreds and thousands of families which have already adopted children orphans and gave them their love and care which those children had never have before. They showed not fairness, but delight. Would not it have been better to strengthen support to these families? And if both supporters and opponents of this prohibition have each adopted just one child, this would have been a true action of delight which could have reconciled the hostile parties.
Delight is a capacity to rise above the “right or guilty” dilemma. Delight allows to overcome the childish complex “he was the first to start!” Christ was born in a barn, and someone tried to kill Him right away: this world was rejecting him. But He came to give love to people, because love is what we need most of all. And when we refuse to look for those who are right and wrong and just forgive the offender, when we do something good to other people “for nothing,” when we are capable to see someone’s need and at least partly help such person, we are much closer to the true sense of Christmas in such moments.
It very well might be not that bad after all that Christmas is losing exceptionally religious flavor. Christ did come to this world not for founding a new religion. He came to bring in the joy of the life with the God and helping fellow creatures right in everyday life. If our heart is open in these Christmas days to give good and accept it from other people, we might be able to see that Christ still is among us. And the Christmas story will gain a new sense for us and turn into truly joyful news: the God was born into our world and will be with us forever.
Moskovsky Komsomolets, 25.12.12
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