How Big Is Your Christmas?

nativityWe 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 need 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) is 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)

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. Its 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.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.



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10 responses to “How Big Is Your Christmas?”

  1. Byron Avatar

    Merry Christmas, Father. Thank you!

  2. Eric Avatar

    A most blessed Christmas to you, Father Stephen

    May it be full of Grace and Truth

  3. Fr. Patrick Avatar
    Fr. Patrick

    The Incarnation as the cause of Creation, and as the blueprint for Adam, as well, through the Communication of attributes in Christ’s Person, as the specific, unique, personal blueprint for each human person, is a wonder of wonders, and stands at the center of the Gospel. Thank you for your posts, Father, and a blessed Nativity to you and your family.

  4. Dallas Wolf Avatar
    Dallas Wolf

    “… 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.”

    I do pray for that universal hope

  5. David Burkett Avatar
    David Burkett

    Can’t resist sharing some humor in response to the mention of Christmas economics. I saw a comedian mocking our materialism with a bit based on financial experts analyzing what Christmas spending means to the American economy. Something like: “Spending is down so far for the Jesus birthday season. Hopefully, it will pick up by the time of His death.” We human beings sure know how to pervert things, even the joy of Christmas.

    The “big” Christmas is a joyous thing. I remember being young when there was no division for me between the economy of money and things and the oikonomia of the Incarnation. The fasting and preparation services in the church went hand in hand with Christmas shopping and helping my parents get the house ready for Christmas. The glory of the Nativity service and the joyful singing of the Christmas Canon lead right into the Christmas tree, opening presents, Christmas carols and greeting friends with “Christ is Born!” Everything pointed to Christmas, then it was here and full of glory, spilling over to the celebration of Theophany. Thank God that my parents did the work to celebrate Christmas so fully.

    Now as an adult, the simplicity and unity of those Christmases is gone. The calendar this time of year is full of competing events: work, holiday parties, church services, family events and the entertainments I spend too much time on. I have to do the work now to see the glory of God in all these things. Thanks for reminding that this feast, right now, today, is the end of all things and the beginning of all things. All is made new in Christ!

  6. K.C. Avatar

    Merry Christmas Father…

  7. Peter Avatar

    Can’t resist sharing. 🙂

    A blessed Nativity to all.

  8. David Avatar

    Merry Christmas Father Freeman and to all your family and loved ones!! Thank you so much for bringing us the true meaning of Christmas throughout the year!!

  9. Janis Schmidt Avatar

    What did you receive for Xmas? I got a notice from human Services that they are cutting off my Medicaid end of December because “I did not provide them with the necessary information needed to qualify..!! How many reams of documentation do these people need? I hope Santa left them a collapsed petrodollar because they have been very bad.

    I was driving the cart out of the grocery. The check-out man was ahead, pushing a cart. I had stopped my motorized cart by a Salvation Army bell ringer, a beautiful woman, about 50 with long curly blond hair, slim. Parked right in front in handicapped, I told the man which car. The man about 50 or 60, He went on ahead while I struggled to get out of the cart. The woman asked if she could help. I told her no, I got it. Then I realized I hadn’t put my gloves on so I asked if she could hold my canes, which she did. I told her I was sorry but I had spent my last dollar on food. I was wearing my ill-fitting coat over a granny dress, the kind with pockets, so thin you could see thru it. I came down about mid=calf. By about this time, the man was finished and brought the cart back. I went on to the car, opened the door, and set the canes in. I was surprised by an arm reaching in front of me, It was the S.A. woman. She had put something on the seat. She said, “This is not from the S.A., but from me personally.” I looked and saw it was a bill, folded up. Couldn’t see the denomination. She scurried back in the store before I had a chance to say anything. I figured it was a $10, maybe a $20. I unfolded a $100 dollar bill! Tears shot to my eyes, I was sobbing. I could see the woman watching me, I mouthed, ‘thank you’ although my head was shaking with sobs.

    There is a beauty in people, but not in our government or its lackeys. They have hijacked Christmas. I wish, Fr. Stephan, you could talk about the meaning behind Christ whipping the money changers out of the temple, stating, “You have made my Father’s house, a den of thieves.”

  10. -Seraphima Avatar

    Such a gentle irony: a poorly paid bell ringer gives a poor woman the pennies she earned while ringing the bell to collect pennies for the poor. Thank you for sharing this tender Christmas tale, Janis.

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