Christmas Time

The feast of the Nativity of Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ, draws near and the anxiety of the world increases. There are those who worry that the feast is surrounded by too much commercialism. Others fear that religion will once again invade their safely guarded secular spaces. These are only the most vocalized anxieties – busyness consumes our lives. I think of the words from the Dr. Seuss character, the Grinch, “I must stop Christmas from coming!”

Many Christians see Christmas as something bound in history – it is the birth of Christ into this world – and is marked like other historical events. Some care is given to the exact year (some say 4 B.C., some other dates). Others will concern themselves with calculating what it was that the Wisemen say (star, comet, etc.?). All in all, modern Christians, bound by the historical model, find themselves on the defensive. For they are celebrating a historical event and find it assaulted by all the weapons wielded by those who wage war on Christian history. They must stop Christmas from coming.

But Christmas belongs to another category of event. It is certainly historical: Christ was born into this world. But the fact of His birth into the world does not properly or completely describe His birth into this world. For the birth of Christ cannot be placed into the general category of “births.” I was born into this world, on an unremarkable day in November of 1953. My death will also be an unremarkable day. But the birth of Christ into this world is the entrance of the Alpha and the Omega, the entrance of God into the midst of the human race. Though it came by a birth, it made birth into a wholly different category.

We can describe His birth in “biological” terms – He was born of a virgin – and in His birth no damage was done to her. His birth did not cause harm to the Virgin. He was born and she remained a virgin.

But we can also describe His birth in terms of time. What does it mean that the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, were born in time? Just as the Virgin endured no damage from the birth of Christ, so time and space endured no damage from the entrance of the timeless One – and yet the timeless One has entered into our history – and history cannot remain the same.

The consequence of Christ’s entrance into history is described by St. Paul:

Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him (Ephesians 1:9-10).

What has occurred in the birth of Christ, is more than historical event. It is an entrance of the very End (and Beginning) of all things into that which we know as space and time. As such, space and time have been altered. The Nativity of Christ belongs to that category of event into which “all things are being gathered together in one in Christ….”

There is an inexorable character to this entrance of Christ into history. History, having admitted the entrance of One who transcends both space and time, is no longer defined by space and time. History is defined by the timeless One who has entered.

Despite all the work of Grinches, Christmas cannot be stopped. No matter how the world may improperly commercialize the event or Churches fail to properly acknowledge it, Christmas is a timeless event, an entrance into our world of the Alpha and Omega. As such, it is inexorable. There is nothing we can do to prevent its entrance and nothing we can do to change its reality. Christ has entered into our world, with the purpose of gathering all things into Himself. That purpose cannot be changed or altered.

A timeless event cannot be celebrated in the same fashion as a merely historical event. As timeless, it cannot be confined to history, even though it has a historical aspect. Thus Christmas is as present now as it was 2,000 years ago. King Herod perceived the birth of the Christ-Child as a threat to his kingdom. That Child remains a threat to every kingdom – for “the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ.”

“Peace on earth, good will towards men,” is not a slogan nor a measure of the success of the season. It is a description of the reality that entered the world in the person of Christ. He is Peace on earth. His very presence is God’s good will towards men. The world is being gathered together in one – into God’s peace and goodwill. It is not always a gathering that is greeted with joy – and this is condemnation – “that Light has come into the world and men preferred darkness to the Light.”

“Christmas time” is more than a season of the year – it is God’s work of redeeming all time – of making the time of this world into the timelessness of the age to come.

It’s Christmas time. God is with us.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.





12 responses to “Christmas Time”

  1. alaska mary Avatar

    Indeed, God is with us! Thank you for this beautiful and timely meditation. May you enjoy a blessed and bright Feast!

  2. Dean Arnold Avatar
    Dean Arnold

    It takes me a long time to get things, but in last night’s services, with the emphasis on God himself uniting with Mary to take on flesh—I finally started getting the phrase “more honorable than the cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim.”

    This was the first time anything in the created order had become so close, so unified—actually one—with the Creator.

    Yes, a “timeless” event.

  3. davidperi Avatar

    Yesterday I listened to Fr Ton Hopko´s podcast on AFR. On it he said that as Orthodox christians do we really “believe” in the incarnation along with the creeds of the Orthodox.
    Last night I went to church and saw the icon of the nativity and my mind was flooded with all the above thoughts was Fr Tom said.
    This morning I woke up at 4am and the meaning of it that God, the Son, came to save us from our misery.
    It came so real in my wife and my circumstances lately because of her cancer. I use to be with hospice and faced many circumstances as pastor but I could be alittle distance from the sufferer. But now, someone closer was involved…it even touched me. It was such an emotional and mental stress with me as to what she was going through hearing the news, then surgery, and post-exams (middle of next January when all tests are done..then we face what is next)
    When we heard the news that her liver and kidneys were clear it was as a huge weight fell from the both of us…even me. I then saw that even Christ came not only to save but lead us daily on this path. For me I learned a very difficult lesson of learning now to be more sympthatic, to show more love, kindness to others…a lesson I would never have learned. I praised God and clutched more closely to the Resurrected Lord and the meaning of the Incarnation. Perhaps the truth what the early church fathers said about the church as a hospital has more truth to it than we realize. Blessings to the end of this year and into the New Year.

  4. Alaska Mary Avatar

    To davidperi – thanks be to God for the welcome news you and your wife received about her cancer. And for the presence of the incarnate God in your lives. Blessings on you.

  5. Ibn Battenti Avatar
    Ibn Battenti

    David, if I might. Physical pain may act as a kind of hearing aid with respect to God’s still small voice. May His full healing and blessings follow in both your footsteps.

  6. joel in ga Avatar
    joel in ga

    Well said. Blessed be God for Jesus Christ!

  7. Ibn Battenti Avatar
    Ibn Battenti

    Behold! I bring My servant, the Shoot … says the Lord of Hosts … and I will remove the iniquity of that land in a single day. (Zechariah 3:8-9)

    This then, is Christmas…

  8. Sibyl Avatar

    For HE Himself is our peace….

    Ephesians 2:14

  9. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    “For God is with us! Understand all ye nations and submit yourselves, for God is with us!”

    It is taught that even if we had not fallen, Christ would have incarnated so that He might be united with His creation. Despite the fall and my noxious sinfulness, submitting to His love despoils death, conquers sins and all of the effects of sin (in the fullness of time) and begins to re-open the gates of paradise. Yet He gives to us the ability, the grace, to refuse His gift–as fragile, weak, contingent and mortal as we are, we can say no to God. How much more the joy when we do not.

    His incarnation is inexorable because His love is so total and ineffably complete.

  10. Serbian pilgrim Avatar
    Serbian pilgrim

    Beautiful article father! Its sad to see Christmas being commercialized as it is now, or people disdaining from Christmas’s true meaning.

    God Bless!

  11. Darlene Avatar

    “A timeless event cannot be celebrated in the same fashion as a merely historical event.”

    How true! I knew for some time as a Protestant Evangelical that having a birthday party for Jesus was distorted – so I never attended that celebration. Now I understand in a more profound way that having a birthday party for Jesus is bringing Him down to our own level, minimizing His taking on flesh for our sakes. As you have said so clearly, “For the birth of Christ cannot be placed into the general category of “births.” No one else was or could be born of a Virgin except for our blessed Savior Jesus Christ, the Incarnate One.

  12. Ibn Battenti Avatar
    Ibn Battenti

    Christ is born!
    Glorify Him!

    Fr. Hainsworth (on Ancient Faith Radio) says that we are not born with the “intellectual apparatus” to understand the Resurrection (who can truly speak of that which he has not seen?).

    Fr. uses the brilliant example of how native Americans could not see the big Spanish sailing ships until the smaller (and more familiar) rowing boats came into view (it just didn’t register).

    To reconcile the preincarnate Christ (God as person) with the incarnate Christ (God as person) is never going to be an intellectual proposition.

    But when we pray, fast and give alms we are united with Him in purpose!

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