Митрополит Антоний Сурожский

Sermon given at the Christmas Vigil

The Feast of the Nativity of Christ cannot but fill us with a feeling of gratitude and joy; but also with trembling and sacred dread. Gratitude and joy, for we are so loved by God; but trembling and dread because this love of God cost Him so much.

Each of us is born from non-being into being and life. The Son of God was born from life eternal into the realm of death. He has taken upon Himself our deadness, He has borne in Himself the results of the human falling away from God.

And not only has God the Father sacrificed His Son unto death. A question was asked once, how could God condemn His Son unto death? And I remember how during the War a superior commanding officer sent his own son, a junior officer, on an errand with an assignment which would cost him his life. And when he was asked: how could you send your son, he looked with amazement and said: I would not be able to send someone else’s son to death; I could send to death only my own son.

In the same way our Heavenly Father has sent His Only-begotten Son unto death, to die our death, having taken upon Himself our deadness. But not only our Heavenly Father, not only our Lord Jesus Christ, but also the Mother of God has brought her Son in sacrifice for the salvation of the world. She knew that He had to pass through the gates of death. And when she stood by the Cross of the Lord on Golgotha, she did not address a single word of prayer to God, asking for it not to be, for this horror not to happen; she was offering unto death her Only-begotten Son, whom she conceived in virginity, so that we may be saved.

How much love there is in a Father who gives His Son in such a way for our salvation, and what a wonderful participation of the Mother of God in this divine Love, in this readiness to give her Son unto death for our sake!

There are two icons of the Nativity of Christ. The one that we always see: the cave, the manger, the Child in the manger, the Mother of God, Joseph, and the angels of God, surrounding this miracle of the birth into the world of the Only-begotten Son of God. But there is another icon, an ancient one, which depicts something else: instead of the manger there is an altar table, built with pink stones. And on it lies as a sacrificial lamb the Son of God come into the world for our salvation.

When we meet, now or tomorrow, the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, let us meet it with the utmost gratitude, with the utmost reverence, with joy and with dread. The final victory is with Life, the victory is with God; but the way is through birth into death, and then — through the Cross into life eternal, the descent into hell and into victory. Let us be reverent, let us be grateful, let us be joyful. But also, looking at one another let us remember that it happened for each of us: that God has so loved each of us that He gave His Son; that the Son of the Father so loved each of us that He gave His life for us; and that the Mother of God has so loved each of us that she gave unto death her Only-begotten Son, so that each of us would believe in the love of God, and change. Amen.


Published: Newsletter № 360, 2002 January