Christmas- Being reborn
The Christmas season for me as an Orthodox Christian is a new challenge every year. It is the challenge of whether I am prepared to be reborn, to experience my own renaissance together with the birth of Christ.
Christmas is the second important feast day for the Orthodox Christian world, after Pascha (Easter) which rests at the basis of our faith. Yet, Christmas is closely connected to Easter, as without the birth of the Son of God the death and the resurrection would not have happened. So, in essence Christmas is celebrated in the Orthodox Church as one of God’s plans for the salvation of humanity. It is the day of remembrance of the humble endeavour of God to reach out to his most beloved creation and reconcile His relationship with humans. The Word of God, and God himself for Orthodox Christians, becomes human, in order for humans to become ‘gods’ by grace. The ‘Word becomes Flesh’, and so following the word of God does not mean using the Bible as a book of algorithms, but instead inviting the establishment of a relationship. Thus, Christmas marks the beginning of a new relationship with God that will eventually lead to his ‘theosis’ (‘divinisation’).
Every year Christmas found me celebrating with my Romanian family, back in Greece, all around a festive table with loads of traditional food, dance and joy. Christmas Eve was always the day when we were opening our door to children singing carols, to receive the ‘good news’ of Christ’s birth.
But, although I would always try my best to spiritually prepare myself to welcome the event, I had never wondered what it truly means to live Christmas. And I found the response in the hymns of the Church which are an invitation to people to celebrate the birth of Christ. ‘Christ is born, glorify Him’ says the Christmas hymn heard in every Orthodox Church around the world. ‘Today the virgin gives birth to the transcendent One’ says another. The Christian conscience therefore invites the believers to celebrate Christmas as eyewitnesses, as Christ offers himself equally to every person by inviting everybody to partake of the joy of the Magi and the shepherds to see him. Besides, what is Christmas if not a celebration of the precise events of that night in Bethlehem?
Yet, this year I was able to better grasp the deeper meaning of the feast. As I am in my final year at university, I decided not to go back home for the Christmas holidays, so I spent Christmas Eve alone in my student room in the city centre of Newcastle, which was far from vibrant because of the day. The silence of my student room along with the desire to feel as if I am together with my family incited me to reflect upon the story of Christ’s birth and to feel the joy of ‘seeing’ him. I could not find a better way of doing this apart from kneeling before my icons, singing carols and thinking about being in the cold, but yet so warm, stable as one of the least eyewitnesses.
Also, this year I had the chance to think more about humility. The playing fire from my vigil lamp burning by my icons reminded me of the significant positive influence Christ had on the world although his humble coming could never suggest that. In a similar way the vigil fire burns in silence and without disturbing anybody, but the light that it emits is able to light an entire room. Humility for me is an adornment and attribute for people who wish to make space in their hearts for all people, and Christ therefore is a perfect example of this. The value that I learned from this Christmas is that of the joy with which the Church surrenders us in every celebration which becomes a rotating exercise each year and invites for gradual improvement. Also, I have realised that Christ’s humility can be expressed even through a simple vigil lamp which burns in silence, and all these are embedded in a deeper understanding of the Birth of Christ.
CCJ Student Leader