17 - THE JOY OF THE FEASTS, January 1, 2023

2 Timothy 4.5-8

Mark 1.1-8

‘The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,’ says St Mark. A Gospel is a particular kind of good news. It proclaims the military defeat of an old world ruler and a change in the world order.

But the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a particular kind of Gospel—indeed, the only one of its kind. It proclaims the defeat of the ruler of this age, the evil one, whose dark spirit is active in the sons of disobedience.

The devil is the Pharaoh of this world. He holds every man, woman, and child fast in the chains of fear and death. Through the fear of death, they ‘walk’, that is, they live in his dark spirit of disobedience, of anger and hatred, of lust and greed, and all the passions whose root is in death.

In all of these states of mind and soul, in all of these passions that throw us about like hapless ships in the waves of a stormy sea, we live in fear and darkness because we are separated from God. We do not ‘walk’ in God, in life, joy and peace.

We ‘walk’ in the spirit of the ruler of this age. We build cities and societies on the foundation of our own wisdom and our own understanding, and if we fancy ourselves religious, it is most likely that the god we worship is but the projection of our own ego.

And, because of self-righteousness and self-justification, our ego becomes the plaything of the devil. We do the bidding of the devil without thinking. We ‘walk’ in the lustful desires of our flesh, doing the will of the flesh and of our own darkened understanding as though it were natural to us, and so we have become children of wrath—children who live in anger, acting out of anger. [Eph 2.3]

I’m describing, am I not, what’s hidden, what’s invisible. I’m describing the spirit of our soul, the attitude of our heart. For it is out of the heart that evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies proceed. [Mat 15:19 KJV] If there is to be a change in the world order, that change must take place in the invisible mystery of the heart. There must be the creation of a new heart, a heart of flesh, a living heart, that replaces the old heart of stone, that shatters the chains and iron bars of anger and the fear of death by which the ruler of this age holds us in the power of hatred and enmity beneath the appearance of ‘compassion.’ This ‘compassion’ of the world is but the face of the anti-Christ’s lies and deception by which he keeps us blind to the dark spirit of disobedience that is active in the human heart.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaims the Good News that the ruler of this age has been ‘destroyed’ (Heb 2.14) by the Power of Christ’s Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ proceeds from the Heavenly Father. That is, the Spirit of Jesus Christ is not of this age; His power is not the fear of death but the power of Life, not the life of this world that is suffused with death, but the Life of God that is eternal and uncreated. It is Light the darkness cannot extinguish, it is Life that death cannot kill. It is Life that gives light to the soul, Light that gives life to the heart of stone and raises it up as a fleshy heart, a living heart.

The joy of Christmas is real; its root is in the Heavenly Father. The joy of Christmas is hidden; its root has been sown in the human heart in the mystery of the Virgin Birth. Jesus Christ is the divine Seed of God sown in the earthen womb of the Virgin. Christmas, then, is the epiphany—the showing forth—of the New Adam. The first Adam was fashioned by the hands of God from the earth; he was an image, a copy, a shadow, of the New Adam fashioned by the Spirit of the Father in the earthly blood of the Virgin. The New Adam is Man, but He is the New Man, for His Father is God and His Mother is the woman. She is ever-Virgin because Her Bridegroom is God the Father, not a man. And so the Child born of Her is not just ‘Man’; He is the ‘God-Man,’ fully God, fully Man. His human nature is animated not by the spirit of disobedience but by the Spirit of obedience, the Spirit of the Father. His human nature is deified, for it is suffused from the moment of conception with the Spirit of the Father. The earthly life of His human nature which He receives from His Mother, then, lives in the divine, uncreated, and eternal Life of the Father’s Heavenly Spirit. Christmas, then, the Birth of God in the flesh, is the epiphany of the Virgin Mary as the New Eve, for as Theotokos, the Mother of God, She is truly the Mother of Life. She is the Mother of God in the flesh, the Mother of Him Who Is truly the Resurrection and the Life, the Mother of the New Adam.

On the Feast of Christmas, then, we ‘remember’ the First Christmas, that divine moment when the New Adam was born of the New Eve and came into the world as Emanuel, God With Us, for He walked among us as one of us.

But, dear faithful, if He came into the world in the flesh, it means that He clothed Himself in our death, for, because of our sins and trespasses, our body and soul are corrupted by death. We are spiritually dead, for we have been separated from God by the spirit of disobedience that is active within us. We are enclosed in our heart as in a prison, as in a tomb. But if God is with us in the flesh, that means that God is with us in our death; and because He is the Resurrection and the Life, it means that by His coming into the world, He has shattered the prison and tomb of our death from inside. Death cannot hold the God-Man Christ because He is the Resurrection and the Life. The darkness cannot extinguish Him, because He is the true Light who is not of this world, coming into the world, the only-begotten Son of the Heavenly Father, the only-begotten Son of His earthly Virgin Mother

This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ! The change in the world order is not on the surface of space-time. It is not one worldly empire replacing another that in its turn will be replaced by another. It is a change in human nature itself, its deification accomplished in the hidden depths of the human heart. And, it is not confined to a particular place and time in history. When the Savior visibly stretched out His arms on the Cross on Great and Holy Friday two millennia ago, He invisibly embraced the whole of time, from the First Day to the Last Day. He comprehended the whole of space from the uppermost heights to the lowermost depths, and He gathered all those scattered to the ends of the earth to Himself.

The First Christmas is when the King first came into the world. But that first Christmas is the beginning of ‘God With us!’ always, even to the end of the age, even now and ever to ages of ages! This new humanity of Emanuel, God with us, the humanity of the God-Man is the new order of the New Age that those who receive Him and who are united to Him in the Font live in. For those who receive Jesus Christ and who walk in Him, walk in the victory of His Gospel. They walk in Him who has destroyed death by death. They walk in His humanity that has deified and made new our old humanity. They become partakers of the divine nature, partakers of the New Wine that bursts the old wineskins of the old man, the old ‘body of death.’ They are clothing themselves in His Body and Blood, the New Wineskins of His New Humanity, deified and restored to communion with God.

But if they receive Him into the depth of their heart, who are they receiving if not the WORD of God that is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, that is alone able to circumcise the heart, to cut away the crusty stone of anger, and to shatter from inside the heart the iron bars and brass gates of  death that held us captive, and to raise up in its place a new, fleshy heart, a living heart that lives in the Resurrection and the Life of Emanuel.

God is with us, inside our heart. Christ is in you, in the root of your being such that, now, even our death is rooted in Christ so that even though we die, yet we live if Christ abides in us and we in Christ. This is the joy of the feasts! In the joy of the Light of Christ, the Gospel of Christ becomes the life of our life. In the joy of that light, we deny ourselves in love for Christ, we take up our Cross to follow Him in the longing to lose our life in His Resurrection and Life. Is it possible, then, that we should become, as it were, so many John the Baptists proclaiming by the cleanness and fragrance of our new life in Christ the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Spirit of the New Age, that the gates of hell will not prevail against, and which the darkness cannot extinguish? Amen!