After all the last-minute shopping craziness, the constraints of tighter budgets, those extra activities packed into already over-crowded schedules, that persistent ache inside that no amount of merry making stops, it’s nice finally to land on the after-side of Christmas.
According to the church calendar, Christmas Day is not the end, but the beginning of the celebrating. As reality sets in again—our everyday struggles and those worrying news reports—we have solid reasons to keep on celebrating. Jesus has come, and that changes everything!
Below are excerpts from a 4th century sermon Gregory of Nazianzus preached about Jesus. As we head into another New Year, may thoughts of Jesus rekindle in us the enduring joys of Christmas.
On the after-side and still celebrating,
He was wrapped in swaddling clothes—but he took off the swathing bands of the grave by his rising again.
He was laid in a manger—but he was glorified by angels, and proclaimed by a star, and worshipped by the Magi…
He was baptized as a man—but he remitted sins as God…
He was tempted as man—but he conquered as God; yea, he bids us be of good cheer, for he has overcome the world.
He hungered—but he fed thousands; yea, he is the bread that gives life, and that is of heaven.
He thirsted—but he cried, “If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink.” Yea, he promised that fountains should flow from them that believe.
He was wearied—but he is the rest of them that are weary and heavy-laden.
He was heavy with sleep—but he walked lightly over the sea.
He rebuked the winds—he made Peter light as he began to sink.
He pays tribute—but it is out of a fish; yea, he is the king of those who demanded it…
He prays—but he hears prayer.
He weeps—but he causes tears to cease.
He asks where Lazarus was laid, for he was man—but he raises Lazarus, for he was God.
He is sold, and very cheap, for it is only for thirty pieces of silver—but he redeems the world, and that at a great price, for the price was his own blood….
As a sheep he is led to the slaughter—but he is the shepherd of Israel, and now of the whole world also.
As a lamb he is silent—yet he is the Word, and is proclaimed by the voice of one crying in the wilderness.
He is bruised and wounded—but he heals every disease and every infirmity.
He is lifted up and nailed to the tree—but by the tree of life he restores us…
He is given vinegar to drink mingled with gall. Who? He who turned the water into wine, who is the destroyer of the bitter taste, who is sweetness and altogether desired.
He lays down his life—but he has power to take it again; and the veil is rent, for the mysterious doors of heaven are opened; the rocks are cleft, the dead arise…
He dies—but he gives life, and by his death destroys death.
He is buried—but he rises again;
He goes down into hell—but he brings up the souls;
He ascends to heaven, and shall come again to judge the quick and the dead.
—Gregory of Nazianzus