From Inspirations from the Nativity by HH Pope Shenouda III
An important lesson that we learn from the Nativity is to be unostentatious. We have as an example the Lord Christ who preferred to be born in a tiny city (Bethlehem), in a humble manager, and on a day not declared to the people. He came without any celebrations.
He could have come to the world in a glorious procession, on a chariot carried by the Cherubim and the Seraphim. But He did not care for outer appearances. He was born on a very cold day, with insufficient swaddling clothes and no warmth.
If we then avoid worldly appearances, we shall come into the effectiveness of the Nativity. Real greatness is not in outer appearances - whether wealth, clothing, adornments, or similar things expressing the self - but rather in the victorious heart that is filled with virtues. So if you really want the Nativity to have its effectiveness in your life, avoid the outer appearances that you love.
The Nativity of the Lord is the greatest lesson in humility. Without such humility, the Nativity would lose its divine essence. Meditate then on the Lord's humility, who in His incarnation "emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of men" (Phil 2:7, 8). Mediate also on the Nativity and on what the holy Virgin said about her being chosen by the Lord: "He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant" (Lk1:48).
If we want to celebrate the Nativity, we have to celebrate the humility in it and in us. Let us search into the depths of humility, for how we can live it and what things contradict it in order to avoid them. For what is the benefit of meditating on the humility of Christ and not acquire it or following His example (Jn 13:15) and walking just as He walked (1 Jn 2: 6).
It is another lesson we learn from the Nativity. We notice from the story of the Nativity that God has chosen certain persons and declared to them His will. Others, though higher in positions, were not chosen. God, for instance, announced the Nativity to the shepherds and the Magi. These heard, rejoiced, and went there and worshipped. Many others, such as the scribes, the Pharisees, the priests and the elders, did not receive the announcement! What is the reason?
God’s mysteries are declared only to simple hearts that can rejoice in them. That is the reason. The Magi and the shepherds were simple. As soon as they heard, they believed and rejoiced. The Magi went also and presented their gifts, as the Lord had guided them in a dream (Mt 2:12). The great leaders did not have such simple, ready hearts. When Herod the king heard this, "he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him" (Mt 2:3). He searched and conducted investigations, using lies, deceit and conspiracy!
See which type of these two are you? Are you among those who deserve that the Lord declares His mysteries? If you don’t know, I tell you that the simple in heart - like the Magi, who in spite of their wisdom were simple, and their hearts had no deceit like Herod and others - those only deserve to know God's mysteries. When the star guided the Magi, they believed and followed it. And when they saw in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they obeyed. When they saw the Lord in the manger, they did not suspect but they believed. Faith certainly needs such simplicity of heart.
The holy Virgin also had such simplicity of heart. She believed the things which were told her from the Lord (Lk 1:45). She believed that she would give birth to a child while still a virgin. Joseph the carpenter also believed the same when he was told in a dream. Let us then ask ourselves: Do we behave with a simple heart or in a complicated way, in doubt?
The contemporary world, regrettably, has many complications. The new civilization has many defects, foremost of which is that it took away the simplicity of the whole world. Simplicity is in fact a great treasure that should not be lost.
Simplicity is different from plainness, for one may be simple but wise. The Lord required us to be wise as serpents and simple as doves (Mt 10:16). The Magi were wise and simple at the same time. Would that we likewise be simple without submission or ignorance, and wise without complication!
The fullness of time:
It is another lesson from the Nativity. The Lord Christ came in the fullness of time (Gal 4: 4), though the promise of salvation had been given to Adam and Eve thousands of years before.
On the Lord's Nativity, we remember this “fullness of time” to be convinced that everything takes place in its due time, according to the will of the Lord who sets days and times.
If we believe in this “fullness of time,” we will be patient and not troubled at all. This will give us confidence and trust. So, we can wait for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning (Ps 130). We become aware that speed is not a sound measure, but what is important is the proper time which the Lord chooses. When that time comes, the Lord will certainly work.
The Lord seeks our salvation:
One of the spiritual points we learn from the story of Incarnation and Nativity is that God Himself seeks our salvation. Even if man is negligent of his own salvation, God cares.
When human beings were unable to save themselves, God came to save them. This is what St. Jacob the Serogi said: “There was a controversy between man and God. As man could not ascend to God to reconcile with Him, God Himself descended to make this reconciliation.”
It is God who started the salvation process. He gave the promise, prepared for it and perfected it. Salvation could not have been fulfilled without Him.
The Nativity was the starting point of salvation. So when Simeon the elderly saw it, he said, "Lord, You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation" (Lk 2: 29, 30).
The Nativity of the Lord Christ is not a mere ordinary birth, but it is an evidence of the wonderful divine love; "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" (Jn 3:16). This giving, of course, was for the sake of the world. Redemption was the main reason for Incarnation or "God's love coming to the world.”
Whenever we look at the picture of the Lord's Nativity, we remember God's love to mankind. We remember how He sought our salvation; "the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Lk 19:10). For our salvation, He emptied Himself and took the form of a bondservant. He came in the flesh and endured the weakness of human nature. He experienced hunger, thirst and fatigue. He suffered insults and passions. He was crucified, buried and risen. What greater love is worth remembering whenever we contemplate on the Nativity?!
He was born in a manger to lift us up to His throne in eternity. He became the Son of Man to make man the son of God. He took what is ours to give us what is His. He carried our sins to set on us His righteousness. His coming to the world was a kind of care for us, human kind. He first sent prophets, apostles and angels to prepare the way, and then He Himself came last. How deep His love is; He wills not that we perish in our sins!
Since God loves us so much, shouldn’t we love Him likewise? Since God seeks our salvation with so much sacrifice, shouldn’t we be keen for our own salvation? We should take part with Him in work so that we may “lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Phil 3:12).
This is then the lesson: If we care not for our own salvation, we shall have not attained the effectiveness of the Nativity in our life.
The significance of the event:
Many are the lessons that can be learned from the Lord's Nativity. But it is most important to train ourselves to benefit from such lessons. .
On every feast and on every occasion, try to benefit from the spirit of the occasion. Discover its significance, practice it in your life and ask yourselves, “What is the lesson God wants us to learn on this occasion? What is God's message to us?” Do benefit from the blessed day. Let it not pass by without affecting your practical life.
Would that you feel a better change in your life because of the feast! Would that you feel a strong incentive that draws you nearer to God because of the feast! Remember that the feast is the Lord's, and the Lord has given us the opportunity of spiritual joy that we may have life and enjoy what is best for us.