Christ is born! Glorify Him!
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Before we jump too quickly to the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt and their sojourn there; before we jump to their subsequent return to the land of Judea, let us take just but a moment or so to relish the Mystery of the Nativity of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ according to the Flesh. Let us savor like sweet wine this holy and divine revelation from on high to us personally as believers in this great miracle and manifestation of God, yet not just to us or for us, but for the whole world (Ga. 1:11-19; 1 Jn. 2:2). Indeed, the truth of our faith here rings loud and clear as bells on Christmass Day itself: “for us men and for our salvation [He] came down from Heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became Man” (Nicene Creed). “For,” as the holy Apostle has declared elsewhere, “the grace of God [in the flesh of Bethlehem’s Holy Child] that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Ts. 2:11), precisely because our good God Who loves mankind “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the Truth” (1 Tm. 2:3-4). Christ is born! Glorify Him!
We are assured by His advent here among us sinners that this Holy Child, Jesus, “gave Himself [both on the Cross, to be sure, as well as His condescension in the flesh], that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Ts. 2:14). These good works, so the Apostle reminds us, are to be maintained by us who have been justified by the grace of God. Why? Because, even for us who have been saved by grace, who are being saved by grace, and who will be saved by grace – even these good works are, the Apostle assures us, “good and profitable to men” (Ts. 3:7, 8). Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Again, we are reminded, that each and every piece of the Incarnation puzzle is absolutely necessary “for us men and for our salvation” (Nicene Creed). We are further reminded that if anyone – be they men or angels – if anyone preaches or teaches any other thing other than that which we have received from the hands of the Apostles, that man or angel is preaching another or different gospel and that man or angel is to be anathematized, that is, “accursed” (Ga. 1:8)! Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Indeed, the Magi from the East glorified the newborn King for Whom they sought long and hard. But, on this day immediately after the feast day, we are presented with a grim reality: not all souls rejoiced to see or hear of the newborn King of all! Hard to imagine, but nonetheless true. Herod epitomizes all who shutter at the Birth of Israel’s true God and King. Herod, so we heard yesterday morning, was “troubled” by this news, mystifying to say the least, that is, until we recognize that Satan is at work here. For our battle is a spiritual one fought on these earthly plains (Ep. 6:12). The angels rejoice; the devils shriek in agony: “’What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God? Art Thou come hither to torment us before the time?’” (Mt. 8:29; Mk. 1:24). Indeed, He has come precisely for this purpose: “that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn. 3:8). “Inasmuch as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hb. 2:14). This drives home the nail in the devil’s coffin: “But we see Jesus, Who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone” (Hb. 2:10). The demons tremble in fear! Herod is troubled! The devil shrieks in great terror! Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Like that ancient dragon, “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan” foretold in the St. John’s Revelation, so is Herod and all who are like him. If you recall that ancient revelation from on high, the dragon, defeated by the Archangel Michael and all the bodiless powers of Heaven, was cast down from on high to the earth. And, it is here that he continues his warfare against God by persecuting “the Woman who gave birth to the male Child” destined to “rule all nations with a rod of iron.” And this dragon, we are told, “was enraged with the Woman” because she was preserved by God. And so, “he went off to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” The great dragon, that ancient serpent, belches forth a flood of water to drown the Woman and her faithful brood. This Devil, we are told, is the one who deceives the whole world (Rv. 12:1-17). For he is the father of lies, our Lord once said, and is a murderer from the very beginning. He “’does not stand in the Truth, because there is no Truth in him’” (Jn. 8:44).
Herod, like the devil, is full of deceit and spews out death upon the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem. He is a murderer. He aborts their young lives without nary a thought. He musters all of his kingly power to seek out and to destroy the newborn King. And all those in and around Bethlehem, two years of age and younger, are but “collateral damage” in this Satanic warfare. Ironically, he who is a deceiver himself despises being deceived. And so, when the Magi fail to return as expected, he fancies himself having been deceived, not giving countenance at all to divine intervention because for him God is but a mythical character, an opiate for the weak. Real men, in Herod’s thinking, don’t submissively bow their necks to anyone. They are the ones worshipped! The Magi – and all who follow in their stead – are fools. Might makes right! Survival of the fittest! So vile is this Herod that even his own family is not safe from his paranoia run amok! He murders his wife and assassinates his sons leading an ancient voice to once quip, “Better to be Herod’s pig than to be his son!”
Sin has brought death, and death opens the floodgates for sin. All of this, we’re told by Sacred Scripture, because of the devil’s envy (WS 2:23-24; Rm. 5:12)! And a voice is heard crying out in Ramah, “’lamentation and weeping and great mourning,’” a voice that cannot or will not be consoled, that is, until the Consolation of Israel appears. Heaven rejoices over what has come to pass by divine providence there in Bethlehem’s manger and Rachel weeps for her children because of what, too, has transpired in Bethlehem all because of evil. God has entered into the fray by joining His divinity with our nature, and in so doing, He attacks the Satanic stronghold. This Holy Infant becomes a full-grown Man and fights hand-to-hand combat with the forces of sin, death, and the devil. It will not be until we hear once again the voice of an angel assuring us and all who have not been spared sin and death, “’He is not here; for He is risen, as He said’” (Mt. 28:6). This will be the divine answer to Herod and to all who are in league with the powers of Hell. For this Holy Child is born in order to die “for us men and for our salvation,” and “having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him” (Rm. 6:9). And all who are united to Him in the Mystery of the saving waters have a share in His victory, now and unto the ages of ages. Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Christ is born! Glorify Him!