As we enter into the season of preparation to receive our Lord's birth let us all pause a moment and reflect upon this special time of joy. The church, in its hymnography, paints the picture and taps into the incredible joy we can experience with our Lord's incarnation becoming actualized:
Let creation exceedingly rejoice, for the Creator fashions Himself as a creature!
He who was before all things now manifests Himself as God newly revealed!
Be joyful, O earth! Behold, Christ draws near to be born in Bethlehem.
Dance for joy, O company of prophets, for today you behold the fulfillment of your words. Rejoice, all you righteous!
Let the nations be in exceeding joy! Mountains, hills, valleys, rivers, seas, and the whole of creation: Magnify the Lord who now is born!
Rejoice, O Virgin, The Theotokos who of the Holy Spirit has borne Life into the world, for the salvation of all!
Fr. Alexander Schmemann, a prominent Orthodox theologian in the 20th century, reminds us in his book 'For the Life of the World' that before Christians can do anything with Christmas programs, project, and activities they must first recover the meaning of great joy. This spiritual joy, the true joy of our Lord, is not something external, but is found within. It is found within our souls when we experience the incarnate Word of God, the eternal Logos, born in the flesh, taking on humanity that we all share, and to freely give us eternal life.
This Christmas, many of our external programs, projects, and activities are greatly diminished or cancelled all together. It is in this external diminishment that we have a rare opportunity to look inwards, towards our soul to unearth the spiritual joy which can only be experienced during this season of preparation and fulfilled in Christ's birth. This may very well be the only Christmas in our whole life where we will have so few external activities, so let us all turn inwards to find Christ's joy and peace in His birth. How rare an opportunity it is to find that when we have everything external stripped away we find the 'pearl of great price' (Mt 13:36). What an opportunity to remember that 'the kingdom of God is within you' (Lk 17:21) and Christ is patiently waiting to enter into our hearts during this Christmas season.
Let us not fall into despair since we are so limited in our external festivities but resurrect our spiritual festivities of experiencing our Lord through His unending love and grace. Let us all avoid being accused of being joyless Christians, but take this opportunity to shine spiritual joy in our hurting world this Christmas season.