The Mystery of the Nativity

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Priest Serge Gankovsky

In the deep mystery of a silent winter night, in a remote little provincial town located at the farthest border of an enormous Mediterranean Empire, God’s promise to save perishing mankind is being fulfilled, unnoticed by anyone. In Bethlehem, the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (I Timothy 6: 15) is born to us! Imperceptibly, in secret, the “Supernatural Wonder” takes place, and God’s Judgement upon fallen Adam is turned to mercy! And nothing disturbs the reverent peace of the Nativity night - neither the thunder of trumpets nor the clashing of cymbals, nor the noisy cries of clamoring masses. Truly, so imperceptibly, so humbly, so quietly could have been born only that One Who “shall not strive, nor cry…a bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench.” (Matthew 12: 19 - 20). Only the One Whose Kingdom truly was “not of this world (John 18: 36) could have been born in such a manner!

You could count on your fingers the number of people who witnessed that most important event in the history of mankind: they were so few! And of those who were present, did all fully understand what they had witnessed? Or did they merely sense something great, something uniquely glorious, something incomprehensibly significant that exhausted their souls with joyous trepidation and compelled them to experience each moment of the events, keeping these things, and pondering in the heart (see Luke 2: 19) the tiniest little detail of what had taken place? Were they aware, as they crowded into the cave near the Shepherds’ Field, that before their eyes the unheard of was happening: not only was the heavenly lantern “turning toward the summer/moving through the year” but the Sun of Righteousness was beginning Its sacrificial path up to Golgotha: God was becoming Man?!

This was when “the fullness of the time was come” (Galatians 4: 4). What had been accomplished in secret was that secret which “shall be proclaimed upon the housetops” (Luke 12: 3). That light of truth shone forth in the world, in what until then had been a people that “sat in the region and shadow of death” (Matthew 4: 16). And the world still did not recognize its “time of visitation” (Luke 19: 44)! The world, remaining in a tranquil sleep, did not respond with either joy or sorrow to the birth of the Pre-eternal Infant. It slept through the hour of Angelic song, failed to note that the Time had stopped and that Eternity had entered into the course of history.

The Divine Incarnation that happened in the mystical quiet of the winter night remained a Mystery in whose secret depths it is pointless to strive to penetrate using fallen mankind's human intellect; it is neither the witty nor those tempted to formulate syllogisms, but rather the “pure in heart…[who] shall see God” (Matthew 5: 8). To penetrate into the Mystery of the Nativity, one does not have to be a wise man, like the magicians, or a very simple man, like the shepherds, for neither wisdom nor simplicity, but rather holiness and love make the heart perceptive and the mind pure.

“With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19: 26). Therefore, as the Apostle Paul states, God “hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Galatians 4: 6), for it is not through sharp intellect, nor accurate calculation, nor artistic intuition, nor even through “searching the scriptures” (John 5: 39), but solely by the Holy Spirit that one may confess “…that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh…” (I John 4: 2).

It was through the Spirit of God that the Wise Men, seeking the King of the Jews (Matthew 2: 2), King of a people foreign to them, found in a poor modest barn, among calves and lambs, the One Who “made the worlds.” (Hebrews 1: 2), “the Prince of life” (Acts 3: 15), the Father of the Age to Come! They found Him and had no doubt that they had found the One they had been seeking!

The simple shepherds “keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2: 8) were not looking for anything, were not going anywhere, but as they were occupied with a simple and important task, by the Spirit of God, they suddenly abandoned their work, their flock, and said to one another: “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us…” (Luke 2: 15)! And they, simple, illiterate people, had no doubt about Whom they had found when instead of a mighty Creator of the world and Judge of mankind, they saw an Infant lying in a manger. They returned “…glorifying and praising God…” (Luke 2: 20)!

Everyone lives by hope, and when everything is over, when all have betrayed us, when ahead of us there is only the intensifying darkness of despair, may God then grant us to see in that hopeless despair, in that interminable dark of night, the Manger shining with a quiet light, the Infant wrapped in swaddling clothes. May God grant that we remember the Holy Night of Christ’s Nativity, that we remember it so that we might understand what is most important: If Christ was Incarnate and became Man, God must still hope in our being freed from all-powerful sin; He, the All-good One, knows that we are not hopelessly sick, that we are not yet completely lost, and that we still have hope in salvation. Amen.

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  • 4001 17th St. N.W.,
  • Washington, D.C., 20011

Phone  (202) 726-3000




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