by Radix Verum
As Christmas approaches, we must take some time to consider the miracle of Christ’s birth, arguably the single most important event in human history. A miracle is an extraordinary phenomenon that the human mind cannot explain. For example, a person born blind suddenly gaining sight without any medical intervention. Without a human explanation, such an event would be a miracle. The Nativity celebrates the miraculous incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. Orthodox Christians spend forty days in preparation for this wonderous feast and celebrate it for two whole weeks!
“Therefore, the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14
The Biblical Prophet Isaiah foretold of this miracle of the coming of the Lord and Savior. The birth of the Savior was hoped, prayed, and planned for. Jesus Christ, the Logos, the Living Word of God is constantly revealed to us in the Bible. Again and again, the Bible prophesizes the coming of the Lord. The Old Testament was written some 400 years before the New Testament and yet Christ is continually prophesized and unveiled. This time between the Old and New Testament is called the “400 years of silence” during which there were no other prophets. Christ came at exactly the right time to complete his mission.
“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.” – Daniel 9:25
The Book of Daniel is an especially rewarding read, and we see the foreshadowing of the coming of our Lord. While it may take spiritual discernment and several readings to grasp the fullness of what is being said, once you see it, it cannot be unseen. Chapter Nine of the Book of Daniel predicts the exact day that our Lord and Savior will arrive. Daniel would have had no way of knowing what he was writing about, as the Angel Gabriel spoke to him. God’s planning is meticulous and perfect.
“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” – Micah 5:2
“Therefore, will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel.” – Micah 5:3
The scriptures contain these subtle, yet beautiful references to the coming of Christ, and His ministry is revealed. How He would live, how He would teach, the heavenly nature of His kingdom.
“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.” – Malachi 3:1
Malachi presents one of the most beautiful prophecies concerning John the Baptist and the paving of the way for Christ’s ministry. Malachi 4:5 tells that this messenger is “Elijah the prophet” which is fulfilled in the New Testament. The Gospel of Mark declares John the Baptist as this messenger. Malachi had predicted a metaphorical Elijah, not a literal one.
Orthodox Christians believe that Jesus Christ was born supernaturally in the Virgin Mary, the Holy Theotokos (Mother of God). Christ was not born of natural and human means; he was conceived inside the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is so incredible, and the implications are manifold. This means that Christ, the eternal Son of God came into the world fully human, but also divine. Unlike the rest of humanity since the days of Adam and Eve, Christ was born to a virgin and was born holy, blameless, and sinless. Thus, the birth of Christ signifies the beginning of a new creation. In Luke we read:
“And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, how shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore, also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.” – Luke 1:26-38
Just imagine for a moment what it would have been like for Mary to be visited by an angel and be told that she would conceive and give birth to the Son of God by the Holy Spirit. Note also that Mary consents to this, she is not ordered to agree nor is she commanded. She makes the choice to be obedient unto God. Remarkably, the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ would be born in Bethlehem, the “city of David,” thus fulfilling Biblical prophecy, specifically Micah 5:2. In Matthew we read:
“But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” – Matthew 1:20
Once again, the Holy Spirit is identified as being the means with which Mary becomes pregnant. This also shows a connection between the Holy Spirt and Christ, the mystery of the Holy Trinity signaled.
In the Gospel of John, we learn more about the divinity of Christ, the Logos, who existed in the beginning before the Incarnation:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.” – John 1:1-10
This is so incredible, that Christ a divine being would choose to incarnate into the world and be born in a manger and take on the flesh and dwell amongst us for our salvation. This virgin birth of a holy and divine being brought sinless into the world, stands in harsh contrast to Adam. In this is revealed God’s supernatural intervention in the world. The Nativity is an amazing miracle, it signifies this intervention by God, this meeting between God and humanity. In Christ Jesus, the heavenly man meets the earthly one and they are united. In this, we see how God mysteriously goes from divine glory to human suffering and weakness, to truly become one with us. To take away the sins of the world.
As we celebrate the Nativity let us remember the profundity of God coming to man, that man may return to God from his fallen state and be united to Him through Christ forever. St. Gregory of Nyssa, in his Homily on the Nativity refers to the Nativity as a “re-creation,” a “second communion” of God with mankind.
St. John of Kronstadt writes about the miracle of Christ’s birth in his Sermon on the Nativity of Christ:
“The Word became flesh; that is, the Son of God, co-eternal with God the Father and with the Holy Spirit, became human – having become incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. O, wondrous, awesome and salvific mystery! The One Who had no beginning took on a beginning according to humanity; the One without flesh assumed flesh. God became man – without ceasing to be God. The Unapproachable One became approachable to all, in the aspect of an humble servant. Why, and for what reason, was there such condescension [shown] on the part of the Creator toward His transgressing creatures – toward humanity which, through an act of its own will had fallen away from God, its Creator?
It was by reason of a supreme, inexpressible mercy toward His creation on the part of the Master, Who could not bear to see the entire race of mankind – which, He, in creating, had endowed with wondrous gifts – enslaved by the devil and thus destined for eternal suffering and torment.
And the Word became flesh!…in order to make us earthly beings into heavenly ones, in order to make sinners into saints; in order to raise us up from corruption into incorruption, from earth to heaven; from enslavement to sin and the devil – into the glorious freedom of children of God; from death – into immortality, in order to make us sons of God and to seat us together with Him upon the Throne as His royal children.” – St. John of Kronstadt, The Word Became Flesh
God, in His infinite mercy and love for us, came into this world, took on the flesh, and offered Himself up as a sacrifice for our sins.
Archimandrite Iachint Unciuleac writes “This miracle has torn History in Two: Panegyric on the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ”:
“Today Christ is Born! And the miracle of His incarnation surpassing the laws of nature have amazed all the earth, renewed the whole world, torn history in two; and flying across twenty centuries, is known to us today. Today the Messiah is born! And these tidings brought by the angels from heaven, first received by the shepherds, have flashed forth like lightning to all the ends of the earth.
These tidings, which frightened Herod and with him all Jerusalem (Mt. 2:3), have like a spiritual trumpet sounded forth from century to century, from region to region, from shore to shore; and today they have reached our hearts. Hearing these tidings the poor rejoice, the sinners are made glad, the blind can see, the sick are comforted, and the lame exalt. Having heard these tidings, the orators were stunned, for they have silenced the learned, put the philosophers to shame, and forbidden kings. At these tidings mothers rejoice, virgins sing, and infants dance.
Today Christ is Born! And the command from above that the Angels sang with joy, the shepherds proclaimed, the Virgin and Joseph heard, and the peoples repeated, have gone down through the ages like a hymn of peace made between man and God; and we hymn it also today.
Today the Lord has come to the world! And the star shining forth in the east that told of the miracle and called the three Magi to their path has carried across generations, cities, countless kingdoms, to numberless peoples; and we see it shining today in the vaults of the Church of Christ. Thus the miracle of the birth of Christ, the good tidings, the singing of Angels, and the shining of the star have gathered us together in church today, brethren, so that we may rejoice in the Lord and spiritually celebrate.” – Archimandrite Iachint Unciuleac, This Miracle has Torn History in Two
This is such a beautiful description regarding the miracle of Christ’s birth, and Archimandrite Iachint is correct. God has entered into the depths of human life, and has lowered himself, that we might be lifted up all the way to heaven! Only through divine providence could such an event happen. Such is the love God has for mankind! All the laws of nature were overturned, and the heavens opened and sang, and the Angels rejoiced. Such humility and mercy, how can one even begin to describe such a glorious mystery? This humble incarnation and manifestation would serve to fulfill all the prophecies of the Old Testament, and in so doing reveal His love for us.
“Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,
Has shone to the world the light of knowledge;
For by it those who worshipped the stars
Were taught by a star
To worship Thee, the Sun of Righteousness,
And to know Thee, the Dayspring From On High,
O Lord, glory to Thee!”
– Troparion of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Tone 4
This hymn hints at the Glory of the miracle of Christ’s birth. He is at once an infant, a newborn baby in a manger but also the Ancient of Days, human but divine, a son, but also the Father. He is the Word, Wisdom itself as well as a child. His mother, the Holy Theotokos cared for Him and loved Him as God the Father cares for and loves us. There is a profound mystery there – that should be contemplated. When Christ Jesus was born, we humans were reborn, we are brought back from the death of sin and given a chance for redemption and unity with God. The dead are themselves resurrected and delivered from the sting of death and mortality.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son. Surely, this is a great mystery. As Christians, we should be celebrating and remembering what the Lord has done for us. God himself coming down from the highest realm, becoming man, and thus becoming one flesh with us. We are the heirs of this wonderous act, and it is our duty to live our lives by the example Christ set for us.
If you, reader, are inspired and encouraged by this post, be sure to check out other articles, poetry and musings from the author at https://radixverum.substack.com