Note: this post should have gone out on New Year’s Eve.
There were many events this past year in the world, some good and some bad. I am not going to go into the detail about all the world events, politics, economics, etc. Because honestly, all of that can always be discussed. But what will I learn from that? How will that affect me? Take a step back from the world and see what I am talking about. I will mention just one brief part of story in the world that caught my eye.
“The War On Christmas, The Red Cup.”
Don’t worry, I am not going to rehash all the drama, social media sensation, etc that occurred with all this. But I will use this as a way to gauge, where I am in my life? So, keep the chaos that occurred when Starbucks came out with “red cups” in the back of your mind.
Side-note: I am focusing on Christmas, because the Western Christmas (based on the Gregorian) was just celebrated recently, and we are looking forward to the Coptic Orthodox Christmas (based on the Coptic Calendar / Julian).
Somewhere over the years of my life, Christmas never transitioned. I never grew up. It started out as it does for many of us, gifts under the Christmas tree, looking forward to what Santa would bring me this year. As the years continued, I gradually became more concerned about what gifts Santa would bring me, or how much longer until I could break the fast. I didn’t really focus on the purpose of Christmas.
Even now as I stand before you, I have to remind myself so that the world doesn’t put its claws in to me and drag me back down again. It’s a struggle.
But what is Christmas about? The Red Cup? Social media blasted Starbucks for using a red cup during the Christmas season. They were taking the reason out of the season. I never knew that a cup could affect one’s faith. It’s not like they didn’t have Advent calendars in the store, oh wait they did. Let’s just forget about all the persecutions on the Christians occurring in other countries.
Is Christmas about the gifts? Christmas isn’t about getting gifts, because let’s be honest, how many of us say, I want to “receive a gift”, versus “getting a gift”. Even our own language towards Christmas is inappropriate.
The reality is….the celebration of Christmas, it’s not just about the birth of Christ. We sugar-coat that. But let’s discuss the Orthodox faith. Christmas is about my mistakes.
Our Lord was born in a manager, with no place for his head to rest. The Inn had no room for him, I had no room for Christ in my heart.
I kicked Him out, and the world encouraged me to do so. As we hear in the Divine Liturgy according to Saint Gregory, I plucked for myself the sentence of death. But Christ had other plans, I had done this, I had kicked Him out.
But Christ went looking for a place to rest his head. Because even though I kicked Him out, guess what, He was insistent on being in my heart. We again hear in the beautiful words of the Divine Liturgy according to Saint Gregory, You, O my Master have turned for me the punishment into salvation…..You are He who ministered salvation to me when I disobeyed Your Law.
This is meaning of Christmas. Christmas is for me. Christmas is the celebration that my punishment is now salvation. He is here, He is coming to reconcile me. Christ came to the lowest (the manager, a barn, full of animal dung most likely; yet here we are today and none of us can stand the smell of a dirty diaper) but He came to lowest for the sake of humanity, for me, for you, for all of us, and raised us up to the Heavenly Kingdom.
Now, I know there is a lot of emphasis on Christmas tonight as we approach the New Year. But let’s keep that in mind, as we open the gifts we received, as we eat the food that God has provided for all of us.
We celebrate not just His birth, we are celebrating that salvation has come to the world. All the stories we read in the Old Testament have been building up to this and will continue to build up as we continue in the Church Calendar year.
Now that we have our minds focused on the true purpose of Christmas, does that red cup really matter anymore? do any of those social, controversial, noisy issues matter? They don’t. But what does matter? My spiritual life. 2016 and beyond. I need to focus on my salvation and prepare myself.
Should we focus on resolutions? No, because that’s a setup for failure. A lie we tell ourselves. A resolution if you think about it, according to Psychology Today, they are centered on things that we don’t like about ourselves, or things that make us feel inadequate. I don’t like that I am fat, so I want 2016 to be the year I go to the gym. Be honest, it’s not about the gym, we are unhappy with ourselves.
But do something that is dangerous, that is scary, that we are all afraid of. Admit that we need to change our spiritual life.
It’s time to get serious about your spiritual life. If you don’t do it today, you will struggle tomorrow. If you don’t believe me, think about prayer, fasting, and reading.
“I am going to read today, oh, you know what, it’s late, let me do it tomorrow.”
“I am going to pray today, oh, you know what, it’s late, let me do it tomorrow.”
“I am going to fast today, oh, you know what, I already drank/ate something, let me do it tomorrow.”
You know what happens in all these cases, 99% of the time, the same story repeats itself.
We have to think about today not tomorrow, focus our hearts on today. Change for today, not for tomorrow.
What can I do tonight while in church?
- Pray for yourself, pray for everyone, just pray.
- Sing. Be part of the service. It’s very sad when I go around the church with the censer and it’s silent. We are not watching a movie or a tv-show up here. We are praying and chanting together. One body. Unity.
- Confess to your spiritual father. Many people think it’s okay to go once a year, or never. We are all sinners. We need absolution. Try to be frequent, if possible. If you don’t receive guidance from your spiritual father, then how will you be led on the path for your spiritual life. Schedule an appointment with him.
- Read. Read your Bible first and foremost, read spiritual books, build up yourself with contemplations and meditations.
Good bye to my old self in 2015
Hello to the new person in 2016
Happy New Year to all of you and Glory be to God forever. Amen.