Today’s Advent Reflection comes from Fr. Marc Dunaway, pastor of St. John Orthodox Cathedral in Eagle River. Thank you Fr. Marc!
For Orthodox Christians the time of Advent is to be one of preparation that leads to the celebration of Christmas. In the last week before Christmas, however, we at last begin to decorate our Churches and our homes as we prepare to receive our Incarnate King, Jesus Christ, God become man. Still we fast and still we wait for the Great Feast of December 25, but now the approach of Christmas is being signaled in our hymns and prayers. All of this sense of preparation and anticipation is difficult to maintain against the tide of shopping, parties, and all sorts of holiday events. Nevertheless, we try as we can. Still will come the day of celebration, and on that day we will celebrate and remember what Christians have remembered and joyously sung around the world for centuries. Even amidst our shortcomings, it still comes. And what Christians celebrate on that day is the same as it has always been. A Syrian school teacher in Syria and Deacon in the Church, described it in this poem written 1600 hundred years ago.
A Christmas Prayer by Saint Ephraim the Syrian (4th century)
Child of Bethlehem, what contrasts Your embrace! No one has ever been so humble; no one has ever wielded such power. We stand in awe of Your holiness, and yet we are bathed in Your love.
And where shall we look for You? You are in high heaven, in the glory of the Godhead. Yet those who searched for You on earth found You in a tiny baby at Mary’s breast. We come in hushed reverence to find You as God, and You welcome us as man. We come unthinkingly to find You as man, and are blinded by the light of Your Godhead.
You are the heir to King David’s throne, but You renounced all of his royal splendor. Of all his luxurious bedrooms, You chose a stable. Of all his magnificent beds, You chose a feeding trough. Of all his golden chariots, You chose a donkey.
Never was there a King like You! Instead of royal isolation, You made Yourself available to everyone who needed You. Instead of high security, You made Yourself vulnerable to those who hated You.
It is we who need You, above anything in the world. You give Yourself to us with such total generosity, that it might almost seem that You need us. There never was a king like this before!