How to celebrate Christmas

 

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke 14:16-24

Today’s reading has been interpreted in a number of ways.  The primary way we understand this parable of Our Lord is as an invitation to join the Lord at the heavenly banquet.  On top of this interpretation we can also think about the ways in which the Lord invites us to the heavenly banquet regularly through the Divine Liturgy.  This liturgy is the most important activity in the life of any human being.  It is important to be present.  It is not optional in the life of an Orthodox Christian.

“But we are already here, what does that have to do with us Father?”  I’m glad that you asked.  This gospel is given to us now, just 2 weeks away from the great celebration of the feast of Nativity.  The Lord is preparing to give a great banquet.  We are getting ready to celebrate and feast together.  Our bodies are here, but where are our hearts and minds?  

At Christmastime we spend more on gifts and candy and cards and food than any people at any point in the history of the world.  We take time every day to look for the elves who hide throughout the house.  We sometimes spend hundreds or thousands of dollars decorating our homes to be festive.  We exchange gifts with everyone around us.  We have become pros at celebrating Christmas.  But if we’re honest our celebrations are outward celebrations.  As Christians there is a proper inward preparation that precedes a proper outward celebration.  Without this proper inward preparation, we find that in fact our lives are out of tune.  We’ve become addicted to celebrating everything and in doing so, we have rendered the things that are actually worth celebrating to be nearly worthless.

This isn’t to say that we should not rejoice and not celebrate.  The question is “how does our celebration make Christ the center?”  How does our celebration show Christ to be above all else?  We can rephrase this and ask “How am I preparing to honor the birth of Jesus Christ?”  

The Church loves us and it has given us certain tools to help us prepare for the feast, have we taken advantage of these tools?  Have we chosen to fast?  Have we chosen to attend the paraklesis prayers?  Have we decided to turn off all the technology and gadgets a little bit earlier every evening during this fasting season?  Have we decided to spend more time reading the gospels and hearing the words of this Son of God whose birth we are getting ready to celebrate?  Have we decided to pray in silence and to contemplate the mystery of this love that God has for mankind?  Have we decided to repent and to make a clean and pure home for Jesus Christ in our hearts?  Have we chosen to obey the words of this Son of God who was born of a Virgin?  Have we chosen to do the things that this Son of God has commanded us to do, to feed the poor, visit the sick and the prisoners, to clothe the naked, to offer hope to the hopeless?  

If we, the Christians, are too distracted to give life to the teachings of the Son of God, how could we ever expect the rest of the world to follow such a God?  If we, the Christians are not ready to live by His words, why would we bother celebrating His birth?  In fact we have no right to celebrate the birth of the King unless we are also willing to submit to this King.  In Christ’s birth, new life is offered to the whole universe and to each one of us.  Christ has become a mortal man to accept our human condition and to pour out His divine consolation.  He took flesh and became man and by doing so, He has given us the opportunity to take His divinity and His immortality by His grace.  

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas celebrations.  I want the peppermint latte.  I want the dark chocolate.  I want to eat meat.  But what I need is Christ.  Is my hunger for Christmas as a holiday or is my hunger a hunger for the Feast?  I can decorate my tree with ornaments.  I can decorate my house and my yard with amazing lights but have I decorated my soul?  Is it bright and full of light or does it appear to be abandoned?  

I have prepared for a great celebration with family and friends.  But have I prepared my heart for the greatest gift ever given to mankind?  There is no more time left.  Don’t delay.  The invitations have been sent out.  The great festal banquet is about to begin and there are no excuses that are acceptable to the Lord of the feast.  One would never neglect the invitation to dine with a king in order to get fast food hamburgers.  Let us not neglect this great feast.  Let us properly prepare for it inwardly that we may properly rejoice with the angels this Christmas.   

And Glory be to God forever AMEN.   

          

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