Glory to God for All Things

How Big is Your Christmas?

We have entered the days when news pundits are asking, “Will Christmas be big this year?” When individuals ask one another, “Are you having a big Christmas this year?” It is understoood that economics are involved (as with the media). Our modern economies are greatly dependent on the massive buying that occurs between late November and late December. Christmas shopping is so good for the economy (as presently constituted) that if Christ were not so conveniently born, we would have to come up with another excuse for giving gifts.

However, though the world’s economic system seems to hang in the balance over the generosity of two months spending, this is a very little thing about Christmas. My favorite summation of Christmas (and the Incarnation as a whole) if from St. Maximus the Confessor: “the Incarnation of the Word is the cause of all things.”

This wonderfully paradoxical statement, notes that “all things were made by and for him, etc.” St. Maximus reads these words as referring to the Incarnate Christ and not to the pre-incarnate Word. It turns history inside out and establishes the incarnation of Christ as more than a temporary skirmish to free us from our temporary bonds. It is the act of God who truly completes His creation in His Pascha. The words, “It is finished,” are the words of the Creator over the whole of His creation. He foretold this, “If I be lifted up from the earth I will draw all men unto myself.” This is echoed in a more cosmic sense in the words of Ephesians’ first chapter:

 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth– in Him. (Eph 1:9-10 NKJ)

Christmas, as the feast which celebrates the incarnation of Christ (as does the Annunciation), is the feast of the beginning of all things, and the feast of the end of all things. It is both cause and the end of all effects. And thus we will have a “big” Christmas this year, for the gift that is given us is nothing less than creation itself. It’s price was nothing less than the life of God. It’s not the economy, in the way politicians think of economy. It is the oikonomia - the unrelenting love of God completing what He alone could begin and what He alone could finish.

14 Responses to “How Big is Your Christmas?”

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  1. Bill Griffith says:

    Thank you for being a constant source of Christian sensibility in a world seemingly less spiritual by the day.
    Thoughts…
    1. Blessings on Sebastian’s arrival, an event that does make this a “big” Christmas season for your family.
    2. Thank you for your thoughts on birth-death-relics and the commonality that connects us with a world that some days doesn’t seem quite so ancient.
    3. 3,000,000–a “big” blog number but one I hope grows exponentially.
    4. Would love to have you address two topics “along the journey.”
    a) The Tebow phenomenon & how it’s forcing the sports world to talk about spirituality.
    b) The stresses of being asked to be on a “Discovery Team,” charged with developing a parish profile, a rector profile, and a rector position description. And then having to do the search.
    5. One night recently I awoke in the middle of the night (not uncommon in my life) but for once not fretting about anything but instead amid a glow of God’s grace, love, and forgiveness. Somehow, it’s hard to simply accept these blessings, because that’s what I accept them as, without then wondering where my spiritual life will lead … maybe to washing dishes at our weekly breakfasts for all in need or the Discovery Team.
    6. Thanks for accompanying us / and letting us accompany you on “The Journey.”

  2. Robert says:

    Sensible words, thank you. Happy Christmas!

  3. MrsMutton says:

    Every time I hear about “holiday depression,” I wish that people would get back in touch with the whole point of Christmas. Yes, it’s become a family time, and when family is missing, it hurts. But it hurts a lot less when you remember what Christmas is *really* about.

  4. Darrell says:

    Father Stephen

    What book does the St. Maximus quote come from?

  5. Darlene says:

    Sadly, it seems that most Christians have surrendered to the culture around them in these United States – that being the god of materialism and commercialism. Do we really stand out as lights in the midst of darkness? Or are we more like the world acquiescing to the powers and structures that represent anti-Christ? Have the very words of Christ become an indictment against us? Oh, that we would resist hypocrisy, and instead imitate and embrace the simplicity, the purity, and the humility of those who first worshipped our Lord Jesus, who made room for Him in their hearts.

  6. davidperi says:

    During the late 60s & early 70s, the American christmas “spirit” went out the door for me when I was in retail management. The bottom line for the East Coast bosses was “how much did the store make” from the time of Thanksgiving through Christmas. And, the people..and the returns! It wasn´t until I became Orthodox several years ago when I found out the true meaning of the christmas season. The Incarnation.

  7. Rhonda says:

    Thank you once again Fr. Stephen for thoughtful words that inspire.

  8. Darrell,
    Epistle to Thallasius, PG 90, 620-621.

  9. George says:

    Father, Has this epistle to Thalasius been translated into English? I’d like to read the quote in its context.

  10. Joel Watson+ says:

    Good grief you are GOOD (kalos, not agathos as only God is agathos)! But you are so wonderful in your writing. Thaank you, and God be praised for giving you these gifts to share.

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