Saturday, 7 January 2012

Is Christmas Vulgar? Yes!

Christ Jesus...though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:6-11 (ESV Anglicised text)

It's still Eastern Orthodox Christmas somewhere in the world as I post this, so 'Merry Christmas' to my Orthodox friends following the Julian calendar.

I hope that's not too vulgar a greeting, 'Merry Christmas'...I know the more traditional greeting in the Orthodox world for this feast is 'Christ is Born! Glorify Him!', but it seems to me that there is something inherently vulgar about Christmas that we should not play down and which all the solemnly pious warnings one hears from church leaders at this time of year about the dangers of the 'commercialisation' and 'secularisation' of the season miss (my only gripe with commercial Christmas is that it begins too soon).

For, at its heart, the Incarnation itself is vulgar, isn't it? Just think about it: God becoming man...in a manger of all things...in a stable of all settings...not in storied Rome but in obscure Bethelehem of all places and among such common, vulgar people too! Who would ever have thought it possible that God would enter our world on such terms?

Ah, the 'happy exchange' begins: God becomes man, the eternally begotten Son takes on human flesh in order to take upon Himself our sin and raise man from the dust of eternal death.

Yes, 'Christ is born: glorify Him!' or, 'Merry Christmas!' So, turn on the flashing lights on the tree and pass me another cup of the brandy-laced egg nog and a bowl of kutya, for the fast is over and we have something to celebrate (indeed, it is worth celebrating twice)!

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Something my Eastern Orthodox readers (all two of them?!) may not know: among the theological reforms initiated by Luther was the restoration to the West of the Christology of the Greek Fathers as a necessary and healthy counter-balance to the more typically Western Christology of Pope Leo. Following Luther, the Lutheran orthodox theologian, confessor and patristics scholar Martin Chemnitz produced the exhaustive Lutheran treatment of Christology in his 'The Two Natures of Christ' (1561), which is available in English translation from Concordia Publishing House (see link). After Holy Scripture and the Councils of the early church, Chemnitz's most cited authorities are Cyril of Alexandria and John of Damascus.

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As of 13.01.12 no comments! Lucian, you usually have so much to say(?)

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