The Story of the Nativity

09-01-2012 12:54 PM

By Pope Shenouda III

The story of the Nativity bears deep significance, for it is the story of joy, salvation, love, humbleness, reconciliation, pain, and suffering.

WATANI International

8 January



The story of the Nativity bears deep significance, for it is the story
of joy, salvation, love, humbleness, reconciliation, pain, and suffering.

1.    A story of joy and

The birth of the Lord Christ was joyful to all nations, since it was the
beginning of the Lord##s dispensation for the salvation and redemption of
mankind. The words of joy, rejoicing, and salvation are therefore repeated in
the story of Nativity.


These meanings are expressed in the praise song of the holy Virgin: “My
spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” (Lk 1: 47) Indeed, for the joy of
the Nativity is joy of salvation, rather than worldly joy.


These joyous words are repeated by the angel to the shepherds, “behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is
born to you this day in the city of David
a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Lk 2: 10, 11)


That also was the cause of the joy of Simeon the elderly who saw in the
birth of Christ the tidings of the salvation procession coming to the world, so
he said: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have
prepared before the face of all peoples.” (Lk 2: 28- 31)


The story of salvation is likewise expressed in the praise song of
Zacharias the priest: “Blessed is the Lord … for He has visited and
redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house
of His servant David.” (Lk 1: 68, 69) And concerning his son John he said,
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; for you will
go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of
salvation to His people by the remission of their sins.” (Lk 1: 76, 77) In
His birth they called Him Jesus, i.e. Savior, for He came to save His people
from their sins (Mt 1:21). Actually we cannot separate between Christ##s birth
and salvation and joy, for He has come to seek and to save that which was lost
(Lk 19: 10).


It is salvation from our sins and from the death sentence rendered
against us.

It is an
overall salvation, as He said, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me … to
preach good tidings to the poor … to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim
liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”
(Isa 61: 1)


Shall we then rejoice on the Nativity Day of the Lord for the salvation
for which He incarnated and came to our world, or merely rejoice like the
others with outward worldly joys that have no spirituality?


On the Nativity Day we rejoice at the coming of the salvation procession,
and on the Epiphany we remember the baptism He gave us as a means of salvation,
saying, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” (Mk 16: 16)
This baptism was symbolized in the Old Testament by the circumcision (Col 2:11- 14), which we
also celebrate on the Circumcision Feast.


On Good Friday we remember the salvation accomplished on the cross. On
Easter we remember the salvation from death, and on the Ascension Day we
remember the salvation from the present material and passing away world and
moving unto heaven. In fact, all the Feast of the Lord are aspects of
salvation, therefore we rejoice and our spirits are glad in God our Savior.


2.    A story of

It is such wonderful humbleness when the Lord of Glory made Himself of
no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of
men (Phil 2:7). Not only this, but He also chose an orphan living under the
care of a poor carpenter to be born from. He did not descend into the world in
a luminous chariot, nor on the wings of the Cherubim, but came silently and
calmly and was born in a manger!


The humbleness in the story of the Nativity has its wonderful depths,
for it also continued throughout His incarnation period on the earth. He lived
without a title, without an official post, and without a dwelling place, as He
said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of
Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Mt 8: 20)


He preached on the mount, in the wilderness, and sometimes on the shore
or in fields or houses, with no fixed place for preaching. He used to go about
in cities and villages doing good and teaching His disciples to do the same. So,
St. Paul the Apostle said, “To the
present hour we both hunger and thirst and we are poorly clothed, and beaten,
and homeless.” (1 Cor 4: 11)


The Lord from the moment of His birth gave us this principle: not to care
about outward glory.

He therefore said, “I do not receive honor from men.” (Jn 5:
41) He lived far from any outward aspects; He used to walk, to mix with the
poor classes and the rejected like the Samaritans, the tax collectors, and the
Gentiles. This reminds us of the words of the Psalmist, “The royal
daughter is all glorious within.” (Ps 45: 13) It is a symbol of the human
soul which glory is all within, in the qualities of the inner heart, the fruit
of the Spirit, the purity of love, the meekness …, while the worldly glory has
no value at all.


That is why Christ was born in an unknown place, at an unknown time,
with no one receiving Him. Even the Magi who came to visit Him needed a star to
guide them. In emptying Himself and His birth in a manger, the Lord drew for us
a way of life, which He Himself and His disciples and apostles followed.


3.    A story of passion:

Since His birth, plotting for killing Him began, a matter which made Him
flee to Egypt
to escape the sword of Herod!


What wonderful humbleness do these words reveal: “Arise, take the
young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt” (Mt 2: 13)!

From whom were You going to flee? From one of Your servants? You could
have sent an angel from heaven to destroy him as happened afterwards to Herod in
the days of the apostles. Why then fleeing? It is a kind of humbleness and


The same happened when the angel said to Joseph, “Arise, take the
young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel,
for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” (Mt 2: 20) Is it
not strange, O Lord?! You could have returned there while they had been in
their mighty power, not after their death! Yet, You wanted to give us a lesson
in longsuffering and resisting evil (Mt 5: 39).


Again, in Egypt
miracles happened, for the idols tottered and fell at His presence (Isa 19: 1).This
made them drive Him away from one city to the other, so He suffered in His
childhood as well. Even before fleeing to Egypt, He was born in very cold
weather, with no swaddles to protect Him from cold.


When many catch cold in the Christmas
period, let them remember the cold He suffered when He emptied Himself for the
sake of their salvation. Remember that Christ did not enjoy a comfortable and
luxurious childhood, but started it with pain. With respect to His mother, she
also suffered the fatigue of traveling and poverty, and the sword that pierced
through her soul as Simeon told her (Lk 2: 35)


4.    A story of love:

But for God##s love for mankind, He would not have incarnated to redeem
them, as the Gospel says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His
only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have
everlasting life.” (Jn 3: 16) It is practical love that redeems and saves,
even through emptying oneself. That is why He became Man to die on our behalf.
Here we remember His words to His disciples, “Greater love has no one than
this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (Jn 15: 13) It is the
love with which the Father loved His own who were in the world to the end (Jn
13: 1). We in turn love Him, because He loved us first (1 Jn 4: 10).


With such love He called us His brothers, and children to His heavenly

For the sake of such love He took the human nature, and for such love He
bore our sins and paid their price on the cross, died for us, and did many
things on our behalf: He fasted, He got the repentance baptism, and He pleased
the heart of the Father.


With such love He opened our understanding, that we may comprehend the
Scriptures (Lk 24: 45).

He explained to us the law in the Sermon on the Mount, brought us out
from the literality of the law into the spirit and love, offered us idealism in
everything so that we may walk as He walked (1 Jn 2:6), and showed us the divine
image of which we deprived ourselves.


With such love He gave us sweet promises.

He said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
(Mt 28: 20) Not only during His life in the flesh on the earth, but all the
days, for He said, “I go to prepare a place for you … I will come again
and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (Jn
14: 2, 3)


5.    A story of

As St. Jacob (Al Serougi) said, ##There
was a controversy between God and man, and as man could not approach God and
reconcile with Him, God descended into man and reconciled him.## Indeed, that
was the goal of the Nativity.


That is why in the story of the Nativity many angels appeared after they
had been hidden for a long time.

In the story of the Nativity heaven began to reconcile with the earth,
not only in individual apparitions, but as multitude, for we read that “A
multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ##Glory to God in the
highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!##” (Lk 2: 12- 14)

Yes, Lord, may You give us peace and
joy in this Christmas!

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