Advent: Grace and Peace

God enters time and history through the divine incarnation. The Almighty God invites Himself into our lives in a state of absolute weakness and vulnerability. The newborn lying in a manger holds in His hands the secret of the universe, the secret of the entire creation and absolute love. In the cold night of Bethlehem, the one who carries within her the treasure of the world, the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, the Mother of God, travels across the city in search of a place to give birth to the one who will change the course of the history of mankind. Today, we still count the years from this glorious moment when time and space were sanctified, merging in a divine kairos, an instant of the Kingdom in which still echoes the alleluia of the angels. As we contemplate this glorious miracle, we experience a sense of mingled wonder and awe that church expresses in the Orthodox hymns for the feast: “Heaven called the Magi by a star, and thus it brought the first-fruits of the Gentiles to You, the infant lying in the manger. And they were amazed, not by scepters and thrones, but by utter poverty. For what is more shabby than a cave? And what is more humble than swaddling clothes? But it was through these that the riches of your divinity shone forth. Lord, glory to You!” (Hypakoe of the Nativity) 

Our overflowing joy in the days leading to Christmas contrasts with the humility and simplicity of the event that Christianity commemorates. By His Divine Nativity, Christ has made all of creation a sacrament, a mystery. He has re-established the image of God in mankind by restoring its original light. He has made tangible his Divine presence in a creation that bears the mark of His presence through its harmony and beauty. He has transformed the course of the personal vocation of humanity by bringing us into the gates of eternal life. As St. Peter wrote: “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power was given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature…” (2 Pt 1:2-4)

In the midst of our busy and stressful lives, we are called to rediscover the spirit of wonder. We must be able to hear the cry of the newborn child, to listen to the teaching that comes from the humble cave of Bethlehem. Now God has a face, He has acquired a voice that all can hear, and His words of peace echo throughout the world. As the 14th century Church Father, Saint Gregory Palamas once wrote: “Brethren, let us preserve this peace in ourselves, as far as we can, for we have received it as an inheritance from our Savior who has now been born, who gives us the Spirit of adoption, through which we have become heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” (Homily 58, on the Holy Nativity)

Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Christ descends from the heavens, welcome Him!
Christ is now on earth, O be jubilant!
Sing to the Lord, the whole earth,
And sing praises to Him with joy, O ye people,
For He has been exalted!

Christmas Canon, 1st Ode, Irmos

This devotion is provided by Rev. Dr. Nicolas Kazarian, Director of the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical, and Inter-faith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. 

This year, we were pleased to ask members of our Board of Directors to share their liturgical traditions around the Advent season and reflect on the importance of community and working across faith traditions. The devotions reflect a variety of communions and personal perspectives that support CMEP’s work toward peace and justice in the Middle East. CMEP is very thankful for the writers who contribute Spiritual Resources. However, CMEP does not necessarily agree with all the positions of our writers, and they do not speak on CMEP’s behalf.

– Your team at Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP)

Support Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) this Advent season. We rely on your generous donations to continue to pursue peace and justice in the Middle East. Thank you.