Slavery or freedom — Sunday before the Nativity

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen.

The birth of a child, dear brothers and sisters, is a joyous event.  The child, conceived in his mother’s womb and contained within her, has now come into the world for us to see and behold—a new human being, a new creation.  We commemorate this event each year and on birthdays we mark a special commemoration for those whom we love.

Our world believes this is what Christians do at Christmas: we mark the birth of Jesus.  And at a superficial look this is what we do, we celebrate a birth.  But Christmas marks for us more than the birth of a baby: it is the incarnation of God.  The Lord—who of old heard the cry of his people from the slavery of Egypt, came down and sent Moses to free God’s own (Exodus 3:1–4:17)—has now himself come to free his people once and for all, since that which was accomplished at the first Pascha in Egypt was a foretaste of the Pascha of the Lord.

And I look, and I think, and I consider, am I satisfied myself to live in our slavery in Egypt which is the slavery to death, the slavery to sin, the slavery to idolatry?  Will I, will you, cry out in our deliverance, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness?” (Exodus 14:11)  Because if we are to take part in the freedom brought to us through the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ, we ourselves must get up and flee—we must leave the comfort and certainties of our slavery and journey to the wilderness with Christ where trials and tribulations will test us.  Will you, will I, even after our deliverance from slavery turn at the first chance and worship a golden calf (see Exodus 32:2–5)—a golden calf of food, of money, of clothing, of luxury, of youth, of idleness, a golden calf of anything which turns me away from God?  Or will we put our trust in the Lord?

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, at Christmas we participate in the incarnation of God, it is the revelation to all of what was revealed to the Theotokos at the Annunciation: God has come to lead his own people to freedom.  We celebrate a birth but no mere birth; we celebrate God physically and materially joining his people.  Be part of it, be joined to it, through the Church, that we may journey with Christ to freedom: freedom which we find through the Cross—by crucifying our ego, crucifying our sin, crucifying our dependence on all kinds of slavery—as by the Cross comes Resurrection and Eternal Life.

To our incarnate, crucified and risen Saviour, Jesus Christ, be all glory, honour and worship, together with his unoriginate Father and the All-holy, Good and Life-creating Spirit.  Amen.

Brethren, by faith Abraham sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city which has foundation, whose builder and maker is God. And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets – who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated – of whom the world was not worthy – wandering over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
— Hebrews 11:9–10, 32–40

The book of the Genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, and Aram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa, and Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amon, and Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations. Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.
— Matthew 1:1–25