Good News of Great Joy
Yesterday, I received a moving email which I want to share with you. As I read it, I thought about how it captures part of the spirit and meaning of Christmas. It came from a mother who lost her 18 year old daughter last January from a totally unexpected battle with mono. She writes:
I've had the worst year of my life, and yet, it has also been a year of beautiful spiritual growth… I just feel God is trying to teach me that He needs us to trust Him. We may question 'Why something bad happened to good people' but we should always remember that God loves us! We need to believe God and His Angels are around us. We need to do our best to be good and faithful servants to Him and each other. What is most important is love. Love is free. If love comes first with our family and friends, and even with strangers we meet, it gets so easy after that.
One of Emily's favorite quotes is from Mother Teresa, which she had on the wall in her room: "Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier." Wow, that has not been easy to do in this world. I feel Emily keeps reminding me of this when I start to question how someone could be so mean or angry.
Loving can be such an easy part of our legacy we leave behind. It fulfills what God wants for us, it makes us feel better, and it can make someone else feel they are not alone, and hopefully, it will help others to love someone else in return.
I imagine Emily watching over Bethlehem and celebrating Jesus' birth from Heaven. What a glorious place to be! Imagine the warm, bright lights, the celebration and the joy she will witness from a front row seat? I am happy for my little girl to be in most wonderful place in the world. (Diane Dabrowski)
Imagine the tragedy of losing an 18 year old daughter, and yet, think of the hope this mother has that this young girl is in “the most wonderful place in the world.” She’s together with the saints, singing along with the angels on this Christmas day, “Glory to God in the highest!”
Christmas is this celebration about God’s entrance into the world offering hope in times of despair, shining light in the darkest of places, and revealing God’s love which overcomes even death itself. As one of the Christmas hymns we sang tonight noted, “Eden is opened, and through Jesus we find the Tree of Life. If we eat from it, we shall live, and not die as did Adam of old. Christ is born so that He might raise up our formerly fallen image.”
This is the GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY which the angels proclaimed to the shepherds. In times of uncertainty and confusion, like this past year which the mother of Emily described as the worst year of her life, Christmas reminds us that God has not forgotten us, nor has He abandoned us. In fact, God has come to us, and even become one of us! The unfathomable mystery of our faith is how Almighty God, the Eternal One, the Creator of heaven and earth accepted to become human, a humble creature, and entered a fallen world where evil prevailed. He tasted life as a refugee, as a poor villager of an oppressed people. He witnessed the suffering of the masses and faced violence, oppression, and death itself. He understood the evil that our world can produce – He tasted it, He confronted it, and ultimately, He overcame it!
Christmas is about the“good news of great joy” that Jesus not only showed us the way to live under a different reign than the kingdom of this world, but He promised to walk with us, to be in us, and to help us live that divine path. While others choose to live in greed, He showed us how to live in love and charity. While others choose to live under the delusion of power and authority, He showed us how to live in simplicity and humility. While others choose to live under hatred and vengeance and violence, He showed us how to live in mercy and forgiveness. While others choose to live under the fear of death, He showed us how to live life to its fullest, never fearing death, because we know that death is not the end!
The “good news of great joy” that Christmas brings is nothing less than a new way of living, a new way of becoming truly human in the deepest sense of the word. The Christian path means becoming human as Jesus was human – lifting humanity to a new level, the original level it was meant to be lived. St. Athanasios summed this up by saying, “God became human that we may become divine.” God became one of us, so that we could become united to Him and live in Him!
When we look around at the evils of our world – the greed, the violence, the deception, the impurity, the superficial and empty claims to fame – we must realize that we can choose to follow these paths of evil and end up in similar disappointment, despair and emptiness, or we can choose to follow a completely different road, with an entirely different ending. Christmas, and the coming of Christ reveals to us a radically new path in life that He invites us to follow – the way of divine love, the way of mercy and forgiveness, the way of humility and service, the way of meaning and purpose, the way of abundance leading to eternal life.
Now, this way of Jesus is not an easy path! It is a way that begins in a humble cave in a simple manger in the poor village of Bethlehem, continues in a life of sacrifice and service to others, and ultimately ends on a Cross. Yet if we choose, in our own lives, to walk this narrow and difficult path of Christ, we are choosing to live with the Christmas spirit throughout the year. We will live a life of wonder and joy because we will miraculously be transformed by the truth that “God is with us.” As Archbishop Anastasios writes, “our lives will be transfigured in a joyous feast breathing and moving in the atmosphere that “God is with us.””
No matter what happens in the world around us, don’t be anxious or afraid. The feast of Christmas proclaims to us loudly that God has acted decisively in the world, and if we choose – it’s up to us – if WE choose to live under His reign and in His kingdom, then we can be assured that “God is with us” and He will help us remain victorious over any and every evil that the world offers.
Christ is Born! Glorify Him! A blessed Christmas to you all!
The Holy Apostle Thaddaeus; The Holy Martyr Bassa and Her Sons: Theognis, Agapius, and Pistus; Afterfeast of the Dormition of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary; Athanasios Patelaros, Patriarch of Constantinople
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