CHRISTMAS, A RADICAL ACT OF GOD
Fr. Yeghia Hairabedian
At this time we are in celebration of the greatest event in human history. We are in awe and wonder of the fact that at a certain point in time, Almighty God came into our lives in a unique way—He became like us and revealed Himself to us. Christmas is the believer’s celebration of that fact – that God became flesh, lived among us and revealed Himself in a way unimaginable by anyone. Even the angels of heaven were in amazement and did not know what God had planned for us sinners.
It was a most radical act of God the Father to send into this cursed world, this world deeply effected by the devastating consequences of sin, His beloved and innocent Son, Who knew no sin.
Therefore, at Bethlehem, LOVE came down from heaven. When love came down by God’s Son Jesus Christ, God met man’s most basic need. We are born with the need for love and cannot live without it. We can exist, but we cannot live. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16). God’s Son came down through His Son and got involved with the problems created by our own sins and selfishness.
God’s love, the true love, is deeply concerned with things like the mess some people are making of their marriages; a love which is deeply concerned with the pains and heartaches of people who have lost their reason to live; a love deeply concerned with the selfishness which results in billions of dollars every year being spent on cosmetics, tobacco, drinking, gambling, while agencies which look after the refugees and the poor of the world have to make do on a shoestring… God’s love is most deeply concerned with you. God loves you so much that He sent His Only Son, so that if you accept Him, you will not be eternally condemned for your sins, but enjoy everlasting life.
This event is even more radical when we consider the fact that the sinner is God’s enemy, and that God first loved us while we were yet His enemies (sinners) (Romans 5:8). I have a son whom I love more than my own life, but I cannot phantom the thought of offering his life for those who are my enemies and who do not deserve it in any way – and yet, the prophet Isaiah writes that it pleased God to see His Son suffer because our salvation was thus accomplished. (Isaiah 53:10-11).
It was a radical act for God’s Son to be baptized. He who knew no sin allowed Himself to be baptized, even at the protest of John the Baptist, so that the work of righteousness could be accomplished. And it was a radical act of God to allow His Son all the suffering, degration and heartache involved in the act of securing our freedom from the eternal and unquenchable fire of hell.
There are countless people who deliberately ignore the reality of God and His glorious mighty celestial angels in their lives. They stay away from God’s Church and reject the offer of the forgiveness of their sins by His Son Jesus Christ. They do this oftentimes because of silly, childish, petty reasons, or because of their love or enslavement of an immoral lifestyle. They stay away from God and prevent their children from experiencing a personal revelation of their Creator in their lives. There are also those who foolishly challenge the authority of Almighty God and are oblivious of the dire consequences awaiting them because of their deliberate unbelief. In his letter, located just before the Book of Revelation, St. Jude writes about such people, saying “…they despise God’s authority and insult celestial beings” (v. 8).
Nevertheless, out of His deep love for His creation, God gives each and everyone of us the time and opportunity to know Him, before it is too late. This God, who is invisible to us physically because our bodies could not withstand the tremendous glory of His Being, became like us, was born and lived among us so that we could relate to Him on our own level. Further, what is so thrilling is also the fact that He became like us so that we may become like Him. The Heavenly Father’s desire is that we may be transformed from mortality to immortality by the unfathomable energy and ability of His HOLY SPIRIT.
Therefore, as Armenian Christians, when we use the traditional greeting of this season, “Christ is born and revealed” it means, the One chosen by God to reveal Himself to us. We read about this amazing event in Holy Scripture first of all from the Gospel of our Lord according to Matthew: “The virgin shall be with a child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel – which means, ‘God with us’ ” (Matthew1:23). We must realize that the Armenian Church is not just celebrating the birth of the Christ, but rather, the revealing of the Christ both at His birth and at His baptism. By the way, it is for this reason that the Blessing of the Water ceremony takes place at the end of the Armenian Church Christmas Liturgy.
The water blessing is symbolic of Christ’s baptism, which signifies the holiness (spiritual cleansing) of God coming down from heaven in our lives. We read, concerning this significant act: “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. AT THAT MOMENT HEAVEN OPENED, AND HE SAW THE SPIRIT OF GOD DECENDING LIKE A DOVE AND LIGHTING ON HIM. AND A VOICE FROM HEAVEN PROCLAIMED ‘THIS IS MY BELOVED SON WHOM I LOVE; WITH HIM I AM WELL PLEASED’ ” (Matthew 3:16-17).
Yes, the voice of God Almighty declared and so revealed that Jesus is the one and only manifestation of Divinity (God); the only road to salvation and eternal life. Do you love Him? ONLY THE POWER OF GOD, THROUGH THE BLOOD OF HIS SON CAN PERFORM THE GREATEST MIRACLE, WHICH IS TO MAKE US ACCEPTABLE TO HIM AND TO EACH OTHER.
My greatest prayer and wish for each and everyone of us, as we face the New Year, is that not only by mere words, but by sincere faith, we may accept Christ so that He may be born in our hearts, and thus reveal Himself in our personal lives, for our salvation and eternal life. Amen.
CHILDREN’S ADVENT SERMON
GETTING READY TO MEET JESUS
Fr. Yeghia Hairabedian
Every year around this time, we get excited because Christmas is
coming up and we look forward to having fun, eating good food and
enjoying gifts. However, as God’s children, we must get ready to
celebrate in the right way.
How many of you had a great Thanksgiving? For that day, our mothers
made lots of preparations for Thanksgiving. Lots of shopping for food
and lots of cooking.
However, there is more preparation to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Many people get ready for Christmas just to have fun and gifts. Some
don’t really believe in God’s Son. These people visit the shopping
malls to buy gifts and toys. Even before the day of Christmas, there
are many Christmas parties and nice dinners with lots of celebrations.
There is nothing wrong with that. It is fun to do so, however, as
God’s children, we also have another way to get ready for Jesus. In
addition to all the fun, we need to prepare our minds and our hearts
to celebrate the fact that God sent His Son Jesus for us. Jesus came
to show God’s love to us. He came to teach us how to get to heaven.
Jesus came to clean us from our sins. In order to do this, He was
punished for your sins and for my sins by being killed on the cross.
The Holy Armenian Church has a way in which we can get ready to
celebrate the birth of Jesus with our hearts and souls.
Although we think of gifts at this time, the greatest and best gift is
what our Father in Heaven gave. He sent His Son to us.
In the Armenian Church we start getting ready 50 days before the day
of Christmas. These days are call Advent. In Armenian we say this is
the season of HEESNAG. The word Heesnag means 50 days. Advent is
fifty special days to think and pray about the great meaning of
Christmas and the love God wants to give to us as His great Christmas
Each Sunday during Heesnag, or Advent, have special Gospel reading
lessons to help us get ready spiritually so that we can really
appreciate the meaning of Christmas. For example, the Gospel lesson
for today is taken from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 12. In this
passage we read a story which Jesus told about a very rich farmer. He
says that this farmer made so much money that he decided to just party
for the rest of his life and enjoy his money.
However, that farmer was very foolish because he never thanked God for
his blessings. He lived as if God did not exist. He did not use some
of his extra money to help poor people. In this story Jesus says that
on the day when this rich man decided to just have fun and party for
the rest of his life, God called this person a fool. On that day God
said to the man, tonight you will die because I will take your soul.
How will get all your money?
The important lesson is to remember that all the nice things we have
are gifts from God as blessings. We need to thank God and share our
blessings with those who need help. Therefore, one of the important
ways in which we can get ready to celebrate the birth of Christ is to
thank God for all we have and to share with others.
Next Sunday, the Gospel reading is from Luke chapter 17. One of the
important lessons is that if we want God to forgive us when we do
something wrong or if we sin, we should also forgive those who do
wrong things against us if they ask for forgiveness.
Let us prepare in the right way during these days. Do not be like a
certain little bad boy who was so naughty that he was afraid he would
not get any toys for Christmas. This boy was so sad. He wrote a
letter to Santa and asked to have toys and promised to be good from
now on. However, he tore up the letter and said, Santa will not
believe that I will be good because I have been so naughty.
This little boy was so sad and depressed, so he decided to write a
letter to Jesus. He asked Jesus to talk to Santa for him and ask
Santa to deliver some toys for Christmas. However, he ripped up that
letter too and threw it away. He said to himself, “I am so naughty I
don’t think Jesus will forgive me”. The little boy was so desperate
to get toys but felt there was no hope.
The week before Christmas, this very sad boy was walking past a
Catholic church when an idea came to him. He saw a small stature of
the Virgin Mary on the lawn of the church. He looked all around him
and there was nobody. He quickly grabbed the stature of Jesus’ mother
and ran to his home. He hid the statue in his bedroom closet and
wrote another letter to Jesus and this time he wrote, “Dear Jesus, if
you ever want to see your mother again…!”
Don’t worry, you don’t have to be like that boy. Ask God to forgive
you your sins. When you take Holy Communion believe in God that He
will forgive you your sins. And also, during this time of Advent,
thank God for all the nice things you have when you pray.
When Christmas Day comes, you will enjoy that day so much more and you
will have showed God how much you love Him and appreciate Him