By Fr Ted Toppses
The New year is upon us, and having just finished Christmas we are now looking towards the beginning of the new year.
While reflecting about this past year I am reminded that there are some of us who are grieving the loss of a loved one. This loss gives us a stark reminder just how precious this life is. What we wish for in the new year may or may not be possible. The new year may be for us a year of happiness, or sadly it could also easily be a year of loss.
So through the eyes and hearts of all who have felt a loss we are actually given a great gift. We learn from this loss about how truly truly precious life is.
God looks at us and loves us because we are all His Children. God sees our lives and loves us in the same type of way a parent or grandparent love their child.
However amazingly, God Loves us even more.
God’s unending love for us caused Him to give us the greatest gift possible in the Manger in Bethlehem.
The babe lying in the manger is our greatest gift. This gift of Christ transcends 2000 years reaching us even today and everyday of our lives. The babe in the manger without a doubt changes everything for us.
Because of the babe in the manger our life has true meaning and purpose.
Because of the babe in the manger our physical death is now a rebirth into Eternal life.
Because of the babe in the manger our life can have real hope and real joy.
Our gift is described by John 3:16 which writes “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (NRSV)
My beloved family in Christ, we need to understand what gift we were truly given by Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.
I will now share with you a modern account of St. Paisios that will hopefully give us a better perspective of the Gift of Christ and our purpose because of the gift of God’s human presence in the manger.
A paralysed man named Constantine visited Mount Athos in 1981. He had been suffering from a chronic neurological syndrome for 30 years which confined him to a wheelchair. At the Monastery of Grigoriou, he met a rich businessman who offered to pay for him to be operated on in America. Constantine became very excited at the idea of being healed but he went to ask Elder Paisios (now known as St. Paisios ) for his opinion.
He met the Elder at Karyes and spoke to him about this situation. The Elder crossed his head with the relics of St Arsenios of Cappadocia. The following is the account of Constantine himself of what happened next:
“Then he (St. Paisios) grabbed my puny, paralysed legs. Kissing them, he said, ‘These little legs – they’re going to take you to paradise, and you don’t realise it.’ And then he added, ‘Don’t go to America – they’ll make you a guinea pig!’ Then, he looked me in the eye and said, ‘Get up so we can take a walk.’ I thought he was joking. He said it again: ‘Come on – are you getting up or what?’
He took me in his arms, helped me off the bed, and we began walking. He was praying with tears in his eyes, saying something I couldn’t make out. I felt like I had wings, and, seeing myself standing, I started weeping from emotion.
Finally, he set me down in my wheelchair, sat next to me, and said, ‘Listen, my child – God doesn’t want you to get better ever. In fact, you’ll get worse. But you should know that the people who surround and serve you are all being saved without realising it – they help, and they’re helped. You become a means for the salvation of their souls. This is what God is asking from you.’” ("Elder Paisios of Mount Athos", by Hieromonk Isaac, pages 607 – 608. )
For those of us who have suffered the loss of a loved one, I beg you to hear me and understand how much God loves you.
He has not left you. Our Lord and savior who came to us as a babe in a manger gave us true hope. Christ gives us the path to true joy even in the face of suffering. The greatest miracle is that our loss is not permanent but a parting that is temporary.
We will be together through Christ again when we live our lives with Him. We must live our faith in Christ to utilize the great gift He has given to us.
The birth and incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is about how much God loves us. God loves us so much that Jesus being fully God also became fully human. Jesus healed people, He suffered, He was crucified and rose from the dead thereby giving us the path to true life now and eternally.
This life is precious and God loves us more than we know how to love. The fleeting nature of this life does not mean that we stay paralyzed in our grief or reflection , but that we live our life with God who has given us true eternal life which begins today.
There will be unfortunately at times sadness and disappointment, but if we also live this life with faith and God’s Holy Presence we will be given peace, joy and even happiness.
The New year is now here. We may have suffered loss in this past year, we may have enjoyed great joy. The New Year will come and go and the babe lying in the Manger continues to be the greatest gift we have ever received.
Christ is love, Christ is hope. Christ is our faith. Christ is true life. Christ is lying in the manger as a gift to all of us. Receive Him and utilize His gift by having Christ in your heart, living your faith every day. Receive Christ in the manger into your heart , it is your true purpose and neverending faith leading to eternal life.
May God Bless us to understand the gift he has given us in the manger. May our Lord bless us all with His Holy presence at all times in our lives. May Jesus Christ give us peace, hope and comfort in the face of our suffering. And May God bless us abundantly according to His Holy Will in the New Year.