God choosing to become man.
By Fr. Malek Rihani
The name Jdimytai Damour is not exactly a household name, but I’m reminded of him every Christmas. Jdimytai was the Wal-Mart security guard who, a few years ago, was assigned to open the doors at 5:00 am on the so-called “Black Friday” (the day after Thanksgiving when retailers’ financial picture turns from red to black). This poor soul was killed by a stampede of shoppers looking to catch good deals. Their aggressive pursuit of iPhones and flat screen TV’s, coupled by a profit-minded corporate mentality that encourages such behavior, has cost a man his life. Our fear about what Christmas has become, is now confirmed: The joy and peace of Christmas is no more! Over the years, the meaning of Christmas has sadly been so corrupted, that we are now confused about what Christmas is truly all about.
Christmas goes beyond simply an image of baby Jesus born in a cave in Bethlehem, Palestine; or about people exchanging gifts or illuminating their homes with decorative lights. There is a much deeper meaning of Christmas that is rarely discussed. For us Christians, Christmas means only one thing: It’s about a most loving God, Who chose to become human to give humanity a meaningful way to connect with Him. The Bible clearly teaches that God became man, and lived like we did in every aspect, except sin. He experienced temptation. He wept. He felt hunger, pain, betrayal, humiliation, physical and emotional suffering. He was unjustly treated, falsely accused, and finally was hung on a cross like a hardened criminal. Of course, that was never to be the end of the story; as the Almighty God does not submit to the evil of death. On the third day, Jesus Christ – God having become man - gloriously resurrected from the dead and ascended into heaven.
To people of other faiths, this concept of God becoming man is illogical and beyond comprehension. To some, it’s even blasphemy. They view Jesus as a teacher or perhaps a prophet, but never as God. The difference for us Christians is that we don’t allow human logic to dictate our faith. The hundreds of miracles performed by Christ and His disciples proves that. God is way beyond the limited capabilities of a human mind. Logic collapses at the mere mention of God’s name. (In addition, Christians believe in the Trinity - God manifesting Himself in three Persons, which is a discussion that is outside the scope of this article). Our understanding of God’s reasons for becoming man is based on God’s immense love for humanity. If an analogy is needed, try this: Michael Jordan taking time to play basketball with 2nd graders, patiently teaching them the game day after day, and hoping that one day they become like him. Similarly, our God who created us in His image and likeness, longs for the day, when we become holy like Him. God is holy by His very nature, but we can become holy by His grace, when we open our hearts for Him and follow His teachings.
Simply put - and to quote the teachings of the Church Fathers from the early centuries: “God became man, so man can become like God.” This is what Christmas is all about. What a privilege it is for us, that God would humble Himself for our sake. Jdimytai Damour’s death is another reminder of how God’s love for man has over time transformed into becoming man’s love for everything, except God.
We all have an obligation to reverse this trend. This Christmas let’s express our love for God by following His example: With total humility let’s give a gift of sacrificial love to someone who needs it, and a gift of unconditional forgiveness to someone who least deserves it. That’s a true Christmas celebration!
Whether you’re a Christian or not, may the love of Christ fill your heart and the heart of your loved ones everywhere. Merry CHRISTmas to all.
Fr. Malek Rihani serves as an Assistant Pastor at St. Mary Orthodox Church in Palos Heights, IL. Saint Mary church was established in 2003 and currently serves several hundred parishioners in the south and southwest suburbs of Chicago. Please visit our website: www.stmaryoc.org.