Celebrated December 25th (January 7th)
The Feast of Christmas was not a separate Church feast for the first four centuries of Christian history. It was celebrated with Epiphany in the one great feast of God's appearance on earth in the form of the human Messiah of Israel. The celebration of the Nativity began to be celebrated as such on the 25th of December to offset the pagan festival of the "Invincible Sun," which occurred on that day. It was established by the Church quite consciously as an attempt to defeat the false religion of the heathens. Thus, we discover the troparion of the feast making a polemic against the worship of the sun and stars, and calling for the adoration of Christ, the True Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2), who is Himself worshipped by all elements of nature.
Adapted from The Orthodox Faith, Vol. II: Worship, by Fr. Thomas Hopko.
The infant Christ-Child lies in a manger, tightly swaddled, next to the reclining Theotokos in the center of the Nativity icon. A cow looks on, and together with the star, rejoices for all creation at the birth of the Messiah. Mary's husband, Joseph, is shown being tempted by the hunchbacked Satan to doubt the virgin birth, while the Magi adore Christ from the left, bearing gifts. The hosts of angels worship Christ from above, and announce His coming to the shepherd (pictured facing the angels at right).
Adapted from The Icon Book, by Boojamra, Essey, McLuckie, and Matusiak.
Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,
Has shone to the world the Light of Wisdom!
For by it, those who worshipped the stars,
Were taught by a star to adore Thee The Sun of Righteousness!
And to know Thee, the Orient from on high.
O Lord, Glory to Thee!
Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One,
and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One!
Angels, with shepherds, glorify Him!
Wise men journey with the star!
Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a little child!
|Place in icon of the Nativity in a special place in your home,
and discuss it with your children. Help them to identify each
||Make a Nativity scene with your children to keep in their
room or the family room.
||Use the Troparion and Kontakion as part of your mealtime and
bedtime family prayers on Christmas Day, and for the 8 days following
the feast (the afterfeast).
||Read the Nativity Gospel: Luke 2:1-20. Very young children
may enjoy a children's version of the nativity story.
||Visit a shut-in parishioner or friend, and take along a home-made
gift to share with your Christmas greeting: Christ is Born! Glorify
Adapted from a compilation by Fr. Stephen Belonick, Binghampton, NY.
© 1996 by Orthodox Family Life and the original author(s).
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