Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we continue to progress through the Christmas Season, it is to become distracted by the trappings of the secular world. Pressures to find the perfect gift, in the perfect size, at the perfect price is the perfect storm. The Thanksgiving Table is barely cleared when the tree comes in, the lights go out and the bins in your garage are removed. The house is disheveled for a period of time before, in a whirlwind activity, the home is transformed into a winter wonderland.
Our thing: Nutcrackers. We have dozens of Nutcrackers in the house. They have nothing to do with the Nativity, with Bethlehem, with the Incarnation or with the Panaghia. They just mean Christmas, in a general, decorative sort of way. Thankfully, and importantly, the Church will always keep us from veering off into a materialistic abyss. Yes, we, even as a community decorate gingerbread houses and host seasonal gatherings. We also celebrate sacred services and attempt to ground ourselves in the spirit of why these days and weeks are lifted up as unique and exceptional.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whoever believes in HimJohn 3:16
shall not perish but have eternal life.
To be sure, the most oft quoted and prolifically used line of Scripture. These words set the tone, give the reason, and explain the very Birth of Christ. While the Birth Narratives of the Savior account the details, this Bible verse allows us to understand the “why.” Why was Christ born of this world. Why did God descend from His heavenly throne? Why born of Virgin? Why then, and not now? Why this? Why that?
Why? Because God loves us. He gave us the gift of life. He gave us a present. Not tied with a bow or wrapped in paper. He thought of the perfect gift and freely bestowed it upon us. This is why we imitate Him every stressful December. Please don’t let overly religious zealousness remove the joy of giving something to somebody.
As a parish, you fulfilled the full Wish Lists of 60 children, plus gifted an additional 50 senior citizens. And look at the images of our GOYA kids from last night. They went on little $400.00 shopping spree at our neighborhood Target. This may not seem like allot, but they brought their own money and purchased things that they’d like to have themselves, for their disadvantaged peers. Having them dispatched in a box store for a half hour, shopping for things they might take for granted helps them, well, not take things for granted. It was a beautiful sight.
As we continue our Christmas frenzies, whatever they may be, never lose sight of the ultimate gift and its ultimate purpose. Eternal Life. Life celebrated and witnessed in the Church. To me, the dusty, dirty, trampled upon floor of our church is symbolic imagery of these precious realities.
Not long after winter comes to a close, we will be moving into new classrooms and office spaces. We will create a new bookstore, enjoy new bathrooms and get a glimpse into the near future of our sanctuary, as the exonarthex (entry foyer) and narthex are completed. God’s generosity abounds. As we receive His abundant grace, let us turn around and share it with others. Others we know and others we do not. God knows.
With Much Love in Christ,
Fr. Anthony Savas