Christmas is before us. How will we choose to celebrate it? And what, by the way, are we actually celebrating?
For Christians, Christmas is the Great Feast of the Nativity according to the flesh of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. With inspiring eloquence, St. John the Theologian writes: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1).
The Word Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God and the door to the mystery of His Incarnation is opened by the Church’s beautiful hymnology. St. Joseph the Hymnographer chants: “The Son of the Father…has appeared to us…to give light to those in darkness and to gather the dispersed. Therefore, the far-famed Theotokos do we magnify.”
From St. John of Damascus: “A most glorious mystery is accomplished today: nature is renewed, and God becomes Man. What He was, He has remained; and what He was not, He has taken on Himself without suffering commingling or division.”
Now that the Christmas season has begun—in our secular society called the “holiday season”—there are parties held at workplaces. But we are fasting, and the celebration of the Lord’s Nativity does not comes until December 25/January 7. Fr. John Whiteford talks about how Orthodox Christians can do when they are under obligation to participate in secular celebrations during the Nativity Fast.
In the past 50 years, American culture has gone from the older practice of putting up Christmas decorations on Christmas eve, and then celebrating Christmas on the actual day (albeit New Calendar), and continuing that celebration through either New Year’s day, or Epiphany (what we usually call Theophany) on January 6th. This is evident from the older classic Christmas movies
Saint Nikolai Velimirovic (1880-1956) was bishop of Ohrid and of Zhicha in the Serbian Orthodox Church. As an influential theological writer and a highly gifted orator, he became known as ‘the New Chrysostom.’4 Bishop Nikolai strongly supported the unity of all Orthodox Churches and established particularly good relationships with the Anglican, the Old Catholic and the American Episcopalian Church. His presence in England during the years of the Great War did much to strengthen the friendship between the Church of England and the Eastern Orthodox Churches in general, and the Serbian Church in particular. His original Christian eloquence made a deep impression and his warm personality won him many friends. As the Bishop of London wrote at the time: “Father Nikolai Velimirovic by his simplicity of character and devotion has won all our hearts”.5 In his lifetime, Bishop Nikolai visited the United States of America several times, and perhaps of all Eastern Orthodox churchmen was the best known to America. After his speech at the Institute of Politics in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1927, a reporter covering the event wrote: