There is something enormously hopeful about Christmas. Like in the expectation of receiving a new baby into the family, the hope of the birth of a Savior is beyond magnificent. The prophecy of His birth was made hundreds, thousands of years prior to His arrival and it is this hope we celebrate at Christmas.
With every Christmas present wrapped and given; with each smile given and received; with each moment of planning of the Christmas meal, this hope is spread throughout.
True, Jesus was probably not born on December 25th or January 7th, but important people in our lives, the people we love the most, encourage us to celebrate their births, even if we don’t know exactly when it happened. Our priest loves to tell the story of a man in his old parish who died. He was helping the man’s son fill out all the paperwork and when it came to the man’s birthday the son, in his forties or fifties himself, gave the day immediately. Father asked the son what year his dad was born and his son said, “I don’t know. He didn’t know.”
“So how do you know his birthday?” Father asked.
“Because we children got together when we were very young and decided on a day to celebrate his birthday, and from that day on our father always had a big birthday party.”
It seems the patriarch had come from the old country and had no clue when he was born. Upon having a family of his own, he made sure each of his children had a special day on their birthday. He made sure his wife, likewise, had a special day. As the kids grew older and realized their dad didn’t have such a day, they came together with a decision of when his birthday was and celebrated it from then on. Isn’t this a wonderful story, made especially remarkable because it is true?
This is what happened with Christ’s Nativity. Leaders of the then unified church got together and decided when His birthday was and it has been celebrated every since.
Soon, we in the Orthodox church will greet each other with “Christ is born!” The responder says, “Glorify Him!”