With them, we await celebrating Christ’s appearance as a babe born in a manger. Simultaneously, we await His second appearance in glory as ruler and judge of all. For we too are forerunners of Christ; forerunners who anticipate and witness to His second coming. We too have the opportunity of love, devotion, zeal, and sacrifice for the sake of Jesus, who came and is coming again.
Christ our Judge commands us to be vigilant.
We wait expectantly for His visitation,
For He comes to be born of a virgin.
At Your second coming, O Christ,
Number me with the sheep at Your right hand,
For You took up Your abode in the flesh to save us.
At Your first coming to us, O Christ,
You desired to save the race of Adam;
When You come again to judge us,
Show mercy on those who honor Your Holy Nativity.
In many of the hymns sung next week at Vespers as part of the Holy Week before Nativity, many of the verses are exactly the same as in Holy Week of Pascha, with only a few words changed in order to shift the details from His appearance as the resurrected Christ to His appearance as a newborn child. For the emphasis is the same. The Christ-child was born to die. He takes on human life that He might sacrifice Himself in death, and in resurrecting that same life, He snatches it back from death and gives it, transformed and restored to immortality, back to all mankind, whom He loves. Christians live out their lives between the two comings of Christ. He came first to be sacrificed for our salvation. And He returns again to reign. This reality is the center of our theology and worship. It encapsulates everything we believe and do.
This Sunday, the Sunday of the Fathers of Christ, we focus on the ancestry of Jesus. There are, of course, no ancestors of God. The Holy Trinity is the origin of everything and is preceded by nothing. Yet for Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, there is both biological and spiritual ancestry. Christ came “in the full-ness of time” and in an historical era when ancestry was held in high esteem. One of the greatest commonalities of ancient cultures is their honor for heritage. Whether the honor of a royal or tribal bloodline, or glories won by ancestors of a militant culture, or outright ancestor worship, honoring one’s family history was monumental and definitive of personal integrity and identity.
As American Orthodox Christians, our spiritual, ethnic (in many cases) and national origins are worthy of honor and sanctification. As a nation, our heritage is a Judeo-Christian one which produced systems of protected freedom, justice, and order that have influenced the entire world for over two centuries. Ethnically, if most of us trace our family roots back far enough, we find we have an Orthodox Christian heritage. For most of us, our ancestors were Orthodox Christians, are inhabitants of Paradise, rejoiced in our return to the Apostolic Church (their church!) and cheer us onward in our marathon towards salvation in Christ. Spiritually, we are the culmination of every effort made by every apostle, martyr, saint, theologian, bishop, priest, deacon, monk, nun, and faith-ful lay person who has ever struggled spiritually throughout history. We are the Body of Christ as it presently manifests itself in history at this moment. We are the only Church Militant; there is no other. And it is our celebration of the Incarnation, and our anticipation of the Second Coming, that links every Christian effort of the past two thousand years with every potential effort of the future. We are the only authentic, living link that ties Genesis to Revelation. Only we can keep, teach, and share the Faith today; there are no substitutes.