28th SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST — Tone 3. The Nativity According to the Flesh of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ . The Adoration of the Magi: Melchior, Caspar, and Balthasar. Commemoration of the Shepherds in Bethlehem who were watching their flocks, and went to see the Lord.
Tone 4 Troparion
Your Nativity, O Christ our God, has shone to the world the light of wisdom! For by it, those who worshipped the stars, were taught by a star to adore You, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know You, the Orient from on high.// O Lord, glory to You!
Tone 3 Kontakion (Kontakion)
Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One. Angels with shepherds glorify Him; The Wise Men journey with the star,// since for our sake the eternal God was born as a little Child.
Instead of the Trisagion
As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. Alleluia!
Tone 8 Prokeimenon
Let all the earth worship You and praise You; / let it praise Your Name, O Most High! (Ps. 65:3)
V. Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth! Sing of His Name, give glory to His praise! (Ps. 65:1)
Galatians 4:4-7 (Epistle, Nativity)
But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
V. The heavens are telling the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims His handiwork. (Ps. 18:1)
V. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. (Ps. 18:2)
Matthew 2:1-12 (Gospel, Nativity)
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’” Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.
The New Adam
The Creator has come, raising up mankind from the earth, making His royal image new again! (Matins of the Forefeast, December 20, third hymn of the Praises)
AT THE HEART OF THE FEAST of the Nativity is the proclamation that Christ has come to restore Adam to Paradise: Christ comes voluntarily to serve; the Creator now receives the image of impoverished Adam, enriching him with divinity, and granting him a strange restoration and regeneration, for He is compassionate. (Triode of Compline of the Forefeast, December 20, first ode)
Come, let us rejoice in the Lord, as we tell of the present mystery. The middle wall of partition has been destroyed; the flaming sword turns back, the cherubim withdraw from the tree of life (Genesis 3:24); and I partake of the delight of Paradise, from which I was cast out through disobedience. For the express Image of the Father, the Imprint of His eternity, takes the form of a servant, and without change He comes forth from a Mother who did not know wedlock. For what He was, He has remained: true God; and what He was not, He has taken upon Himself, becoming man through love for mankind. To Him let us cry: O God, who was born of a Virgin, have mercy on us. (Vespers of the Nativity, first hymn of the Stichera)
When He saw that the one in His image and likeness had fallen through transgression, Jesus bowed the heavens and came down and made His dwelling in a virgin womb without change, thereby refashioning corrupted Adam, who cried out: Glory to Your epiphany, my Redeemer and my God! (Fourth hymn of the Lity of the Nativity)
Man fell from the divine and better life. Though made in the Image of God, through transgression he became subject to decay. Him the wise Creator now refashions, for He has been glorified. (First ode of the Canon of the Nativity)
Jesus is called the New Adam. Jesus was everything Adam failed to be. Adam disobeyed God, but Jesus was “obedient to the point of death” (Phil. 2:8). Through Adam death came into the world; through Jesus eternal life (see 1 Cor. 15:21–22). The first Adam was made by God from the earth; the New Adam was “begotten of the Father before all ages” and “came down from heaven” (Nicene Creed).
The Incarnate Christ is the one and only God-man. He is what it means to be God, and He is what it means to be human. We were children of Adam, but because of Christ we are now children of God. A simple choice has been laid before us: to die to Adam—that is to sin, passion, and self—and live to Christ; or to go on living as though the Incarnation never happened. Will I accept the Image and Likeness of God that is given to me anew in the person of Jesus? Or will I continue to live for myself? Will I choose the tree of knowledge of good and evil over the tree of life? Or will I choose to become “dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11)?
Papavassiliou, Vassilios. Meditations for Advent; Preparing for Christ’s Birth. Ancient Faith Publishing.
Second Day of the Nativity of our Lord
Fr. Alexander Schmemann
On the day after the Nativity of Christ we celebrate the Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos, and come together to give her glory and praise. This is the second day of the three-day Winter Pascha.
Combining the hymns of the Nativity with those celebrating the Mother of God, the Church points to Mary as the one through whom the Incarnation was made possible. His humanity—concretely and historically—is the humanity He received from Mary. His body is, first of all, her body. His life is her life. This feast, the assembly in honor of the Theotokos, is probably the most ancient feast of Mary in the Christian tradition, the very beginning of her veneration by the Church.
Six days of post-feast bring the Christmas season to a close on December 31. At the services of all these days, the Church repeats the hymns and songs glorifying Christ’s Incarnation, reminding us that the source and foundation of our salvation is only to be found in the One who, as God before the ages, came into this world and for our sake was “born as a little Child.”
Father Alexander Schmemann, The Services of Christmas (1981)