Sermon for the Sunday After Nativity
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday after the feast of the Nativity, the Holy Church commemorates the righteous kinsmen of the Lord –David the King, Joseph the Betrothed, and James the brother of the Lord.
David the King is that remarkable ancestor of the Lord who we know from the Old Testament and whose voice we hear echoing in all of our prayers and church services as we read from his beautiful Psalms. David was the eighth and youngest son of Jesse, a simple shepherd boy, who was the unlikely chosen one of God to be anointed king. Even though the older brothers were taller, stronger, and more mature, we read the following: ‘The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’ (1 Sam 16:7)
Our second kinsman of the Lord is Joseph the Betrothed. Joseph was of the lineage of King David and, as we know, was the protector and guardian of the Holy Virgin Mary and our Lord Jesus Christ. Joseph was an elderly man and a relative of the young Virgin Mary who had dedicated herself to God – being raised within the temple. As today’s Gospel reading illustrates for us, Joseph was an attentive and obedient servant of God. At the promptings of the angel, he escorts the young Virgin Mother and her Divine Child out of harm’s way and remains in exile until the angel appears again to tell him they may return.
And our third kinsman celebrated today is James the brother of the Lord, one of the sons of Joseph, who became the first bishop of Jerusalem and was an important figure in the life of the early church. We see many references in the writings of Apostle Paul regarding how disputes were brought before the council of Apostles and Fathers of the Church and how James, as bishop, mediated and pronounced judgment – showing the good order and hierarchy of the church even in these earliest of times.
What a great mystery it is that God, the Creator of all that is, should deign to entwine Himself into the lives of His creatures so intimately, that He would have his creatures be His kinsmen.
It is a great mystery and a divine unfolding of the revelation of the truth and love which God extends to us.
The Apostle Paul speaks to us this morning of the source of the truth that he preaches to the world. He writes in today’s Epistle that, ‘The gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.’
Truth is not a human concept, truth is not that which agree to be true, or what we might wish to be true… Truth is a Person, and that Person has revealed Himself to us.
We begin to perceive Truth as we begin to have relationship to the One Who is Truth Himself, as we take on more and more aspects of the attributes of our Beloved Lord – the source of truth and love and all that is beautiful and worthy.
How do we go about understanding the truth of God?
Do we hit the books and pour ourselves into the study of theology? There is a time and a place for that, but we do not perceive truth solely by the workings and strivings of our mind and fallen understanding of things… we first and foremost perceive truth through the struggle of purifying our heart. As the Lord has told us, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’
St Athanasius speaks eloquently about this when describing how we should approach the truth as revealed in the Holy Scriptures and teachings of the saints. He writes, ‘But for the searching and right understanding of the Scriptures there is need of a good life and a pure soul, and for Christian virtue to guide the mind to grasp, so far as human nature can, the truth concerning God the Word.’
What a different approach this is than what we might be used to… As Apostle Paul states in his letter to the Romans, we must not be conformed to this world, but we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, that we may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
This holy season of the Nativity of our Lord is a feast where the revelation of God is made manifest in the most dramatic and intimate manner. The Way, the Truth, and the Life enters into human history, taking on human flesh and blood, becoming a member of the family of mankind with relatives like David the King, Joseph the Betrothed, and James, his brother. Fully human yet remaining fully divine… and thus transfiguring all aspects of our existence through His direct experience of the human condition.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, when our Lord came into this world, the world did not have a place for him… And, as we heard in today’s Gospel, at the start of His young life He experienced exile into the lands of Egypt as the proud and mighty of this world sought to kill Him.
What about today? We can see that things are much the same with the ways of this world. The proud and the mighty still seek to kill Him and to remove Him from their plans for this world. Yet amid the confusion and the chaos of the world, there still remains that quiet and humble manger which awaits the coming of the King. That quiet and humble manger is found within every human heart.
With the Nativity of Christ, let us make welcome room within our hearts to receive Him. May we strive to never banish Him from our hearts, sending Him into exile by our proud and mighty selfishness. God reveals Himself to the pure in heart… let this be our prayer as we go forth into this new year… that God would grant us quiet humility and purity of heart so that we may be transformed by His Truth and Love.