Skip to content Skip to footer

Nativity icon

Truth has a way of upsetting things, especially those ways in us that are threatened by truth. And yet, we are promised that truth will set us free!

On the surface, that sounds wonderful, but reality is quite different. My first “career” was in law enforcement. One memory I will never quite get over is my first, real, confrontation with a man who had become “institutionalized” by his repeated periods of incarceration. This man was back on probation and as I spoke to him, I could hear the fear in his voice about being out of prison. You see, this man had become so formed by his regimented life behind bars that being outside that system was terrifying to him. He even admitted to me that he had committed this last crime with the hopes of being sent back to jail where he felt “safe” and “normal.” Imagine that, being afraid of freedom because freedom was so unnatural to him.

But we aren’t so different. You see, I am convinced that while we shout about freedom, we demand freedom, we protest for freedom, we even fight for freedom, most humans, to one degree or another are so use to the lack of freedom from our habits, our passions, our lifestyle choices, even our possessions and choices, we actually are afraid of the freedom offered to us by the Gospel.

No wonder both religious and governmental systems were challenged by the First Coming of our Lord. The radical message of God becoming flesh challenged the power structures of men who simply had become “institutionalized” by systems meant to be supplanted by the “new” covenant the Lord Jesus brought with Him from the Father.

Look at our Christmas Gospel Lesson: Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.'”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

You see, Herod realized that if this baby was born King, then Herod’s reign was threatened. His power was superseded by Another. And he was right. The three wise men were led by a Star, and that “light” was from above, not bound to the earth as Herod’s authority was. This “light” emanated from beyond the time-bound laws and religions of men’s best guess, and that meant that men were going to have to choose between their old familiar sources for authority or whether they would risk the chance for a freedom that came from above!

And that is the choice we are confronted with today on this glorious feast. Once again, the timeless Story is told. Once again, we are confronted with the extent God was willing to go to set us truly free. And this is a freedom that goes deeper than a mere ability to “do what I want.” This is a freedom that challenges me to embrace a vision of my true purpose that supercedes anything as limited as money, or prestige, or even progeny. This is a confrontation with a freedom that makes me, by grace, what Christ is by nature. The awesome heights of this vision, this purpose, challenges every lesser idea I have ever had and shames it into submission or causes me to use my life defending my false “autonomy” to my eternal detriment.

Today, have you been “institutionalized” by your lesser visions of the meaning of your life? Are you ready to gaze into the Manger at the Face of Him Who invites you by His very birth to abandon the slavery of mere existence for the true life of eternity as God’s child? Today we declare “Christ is born! Glorify Him!” And we are invited to know and experience that the way we will glorify Him as He deserves to be glorified is to embrace His freedom and become His glory in all the earth! Amen! Merry Christmas, my dearest.

P.S. Don’t forget this Sunday we will have an all new Faith Encouraged LIVE with my special guest, Fr. Panayiotis Papageoriou, the parish priest at Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church in Marietta, GA. Fr. Panayiotis is a St. John Chrysostom scholar and he is going to help us embrace the power of our devotion to the Saints and just why this ancient devotion is so important for our spiritual maturity! That’s this Sunday at 8 PM on

Don’t forget, our daily devotionals will be taking a break to do some improvement to our web presence beginning tomorrow. We will resume January 1st after this important work is done that will prepare us for some exciting news in 2015. God bless you all and Happy New Year!

Leave a comment