The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 1 year ago

Living Christmas | Synaxis of the Theotokos 2021


The Arena Podcast is the flagship of Patristic Nectar Publications and contains the Sunday Sermons and other theological reflections by Father Josiah Trenham delivered from the ambon of St. Andrew Church in Riverside, California and begun in 2010. Currently there are more than 550 sermons and lectures covering ten years worth of preaching through the liturgical calendar.

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Now available at patristic nectar dot Org. patristic nectar publications is pleased to present theological foundations God, man and the world in Genesis one through three a ten lecture series. The opening chapters of the Holy Bible provide the fundamental elements of the Christian World View. There we learn about the one true God, the human being fashioned in God's image and God's meaning infused creation. These texts, which have always formed a central element in the Church's catechetical ministry, present the most important of Christian convictions. These chapters are particularly relevant today, as secularism has suppressed these essential truths from the Western mind and priests can no longer assume that these basic theological affirmations are believed by those coming to the church or raised in the church. These lectures are presented as an aid in the formation of catechumens and as an effort to set forth the transcendent beauty of the glory of God, of the human being and of God's magnificent world. For these and other available titles, visit our website at patristic nectar dot org. And now the arena with Father Josiah Trennam, in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Christ is born, and a merry Christmas on the second day. You know, I have a ambition, dream that are Christmas and even our theophany service will become the powerhouse outreach that Pasca is. You know, here the the tops of the domes really I'm concerned that they might need to be reinforced on Pasca so that they don't blow off when the people are rejoicing in the resurrection and we have a very beautiful and a very sublime celebration of the Nativity, but when all of creation is so deeply impacted and by the celebration of our Savior's birth, when every star is dancing and the night is so mystical, as it was little more than twenty four hours ago, when the lights of heaven were shining on this dome in the middle of the night and we're all gathered together. I I yearned for that to be a time for our whole community, for many people who are wondering about God and wondering about the church, to be invited income. I'm ...

...saying this to encourage you in to give you a little bit of a vision for what Christmas can become. Just think of POSCA and what Paska is now. Granted, it's harder to do what. It's forty five degrees and reigning, yes, but where there is a will, there is a way often and I want you to share this, this thought with me, which I'm hoping to remember to talk to you about next advent, if there is a next event. I've entitled my homily this morning Living Christmas, and I want to start my homily by reading to a beautiful poem written by one of our girls. She's not a girl anymore. She's actually a veteran wife and mother now of many children and even a priest wife. She's deacons God daughter, Katie Stoyus, now Phillips Korea, Catherine Phillips. But as I was going through my files for Christmas, I came across this poem which I had saved, that she wrote to me when she was about eight. It's called the light of the world is born. The light of the world is born and has some great art work, which I wish you could see. That has the three wise men, it has baby Jesus. That has me evidently enjoying far too much Christmas cheer by the size of my stomach. In the picture it has my wife, who kind of looks like a cancer patient. So we're going to ignore those two drawings. We're going to focus instead on the text. The light of the world is born, a poem written by Catherine Stoyous me. She says on what seemed a normal day, baby Jesus was on his way, guided by the brightest star. The wise men didn't care how far they bore. Three gifts, gold, Frankinsense and Merr Mary and Joseph were happy he was born. We're all so blessed to have him, in a way, especially on his birthday, Christmas Day. Yay Katie, YEA Karia, Catherine. I'm sure she still feels this way. I still do. I still do my my heart is full, as I'm sure yours is. The very fought of Christmas changes everything, absolutely changes everything. The fact that we who lived for so long under the shadow of death, in the darkness, the fact that Heaven would make an appearance, even if it...

...had stopped there, would have made it a great day, even if all of the glory of Christmas which we've been celebrating and dancing to wasn't true. And thank God it is true still the touch of heaven when you're in darkness, to recognize that you're not in some sort of earthly prison, that this is not it, that all the misery that you see, that all leads to dissolution and death, isn't it? This is precious, this is absolutely precious. And just think there ones. How many people in our world to day think this is it? Think of the sorrow that must attend that thought. Think of how much effort must be exerted by people who have that thought. Just not to think it, please God, just don't let me think it. I was thinking that last night as I was driving home. As it last night, of course everything's upside down. Yes, I guess it was no one night, one night ago, driving home from Christmas service and I was coming up my street and I noticed how many houses did not have any decorations at all, and it really hit me. It really hit me. It hit me how as simple thing as as lights, a simple thing as taking time to put some point set as on your porch, taking time to do something beautiful in your front yard to communicate a message, not just to yourself but to your neighborhood that this is a special time the disappearance of that is tragic, absolutely tragic. You read the papers about the increasing number of Americans who no longer identify as Christians. Right so you see that as a statistic book when you're driving through your neighborhoods and you see that statistic being worked out in the houses that have nothing, that are literally black because they have no idea the miracle that is going on right now. How Sad. How sad is that? The invasion of Heaven, the appearance of Heaven, the angels in the sky, the Archangel with the Virgin, this miraculous birth. This is a breath of fresh air to the weird human race. And then when you discover that the reason heaven has invaded our world, the reason that the light has descended into the darkness, is because something absolutely unthinkable has taken place, that the God who rules all things, who've brought everything out of nothingness into existence, actually decided, out of compassion for our state,... bow low and to join himself to us in the mystery of a birth from a humble virgin, is absolutely immeasurably beautiful. The humility of God that is revealed in the birth of Christ refreshes everything in our life. It gives us absolute confident hope in the future, in our future. Just look at how humble God is. He chooses to be born in a little country that was a complete catastrophe, constantly under enslavement to different empires, a big nowhere about to be completely decimated by the Romans and just dumped into the trash heap of history. He chooses that country. He chooses a town that is so pathetic that the prophet who prophesies his birth there is kind of embarrassed even to just describe Bethlehem. He says, even though you are the least of the thousands of Israel nevertheless Bethlehem would become his home. He chooses a poor, orphaned girl to be his mother. He chooses to be born in total obscurity and in such humility that it wasn't even like a one star. You know, he went on hot wire and he looked and he said, you know, the cheapest one star too much for me, too much for me. And instead he literally is born in a little cave and refts in a little manger, being kept warm by animals, surrounded by the smell of poop. This is our God, incredible if it didn't happen and change our lives so that we've been talking about it for the left two thousand years, we would never believe it. No one in the world would ever believe such a thing, of a great God, let alone the Almighty, doing such things. Paul puts it this way. The most beautiful passage. He says, let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who did not regard equality with God to be a thing to be held on too, but humbled himself, taking on the form of a servant and being made in...

...the likeness of man. Have that mind in you, which was in him, Paul says. You know, that's an amazing text. I saw something this year, under the tutelage of St Philarett of Moscow's commentary on that passage, which I had never seen before. I saw for the first time the connection between this text and the creation of man in genesis one. I had never seen it before. I never seen that the same two words are used in genesis one and in this Philippians two passage. In Genesis one, the Great God fashions man to set him apart from everything else. In creation he fashions man according to his image and likeness. Those two words. This is the great honor of mankind. This is what sets us apart from the animals, from all the rest of creation, is that we actually are fashioned in God's image and his likeness. Here Paul takes those same two words and instead of describing us and God making us from nothing, from dust, and blowing a soul into us and then making us his image, it applies those two words, that text applies those two words to Jesus, making himself into a man. He did not regard equality with God a thing to be held onto, but he humbled himself, being made in the form of a man, in the image the likeness of a slave. For what was those words meant to us was the utter exaltation of the Human Race. What it meant for him was the utter, total humiliation, one that will never get that. We will spend eternity singing about God's descent, God's bowing down, God's actually forming himself, taking a form of a humble human being, being and even the humblest of humble slaves on the earth. This is God. He invaded us, he became what he was not human, without ceasing to be what he was divine so that everything that we were he could bind to himself and put on his own back and lift it right up, joining heaven and earth in our future forever. This is why Christmas is so precious to us. This is why we dance. We have a tradition in my house in advent...

...of Reading Dickens Christmas Carol. I like to read the text, even though there are lots of great depictions on the screen of the Christmas Carol, but I love to read the text. You know, Charles Dickens has a way with words, an amazing way with words. He could describe a Christmas feast like I couldn't even dream that man's mind. I love the text because it's all about the impact of Christmas on life. It is the most stark description of the difference in two lives, a life that believes in Christmas and a life that does not believe in Christmas. And the definition of a person who believes in Christmas you have through these beautiful, beautiful portraits like tiny Tim and his family, Mr Cratchett and his wife and kids, the nephew and his family, and then you have, of course, that marvelous picture of the person who doesn't believe in Christmas at all, doesn't have a clue about the generosity of God, about the invasion of heaven and the potential for a person's life to be completely altered by God's humility. He has no idea, and so he paints this picture of ebeneezer scrooge. Bah Humbug, what a what a picture, what a picture. We were reading it and talking about we were coming to the end of it last night, on Christmas Day, and we were finishing it up just in time so that we could go Christmas caroling. Now, in my house it's not always the easiest thing to whip up the young people into the proper frame to leave the house to go Christmas caroling in the neighborhood, especially when it's cold, especially when far too much is sitting right in this portion of the body and the fires burning, which it was, and no one wants to go out. But Dickens helped me immensely. We were reading the last portion of the text already the ghost of Christmas past, as they can, scrooge and kind of shown him the horror of his path and his unfortunate responses to it. The Gulf of Christmas present came and showed him all sorts of beautiful potentialities and really broke his heart into a deep repentance. And then the ghost from the future came, that man, that spirit, whose face you never see covered in a black you just see his nasty old hand pointing to things all about coming death and how those who...

...want to ignore Christmas, those who want to live just a secular life, have to come face to face with that headstone that scrooge was always trying to peer into to see whose name it was, when he finally saw his own, as the three spirits are having their way with scrooge and scrooges coming to this deep repentance, into this great change of heart, this great wish is bubbling up in him as the result of Christmas and seeing all the beautiful faces and all the people whose lives are transformed by knowing the God who is humble, knowing the God who has changed our earthly misery by joining it to himself and giving us a future. Seeing all of that, he began to hope for himself. This is one of the reasons I want our Christmas services to be so big and why I want our neighbors here so they can hear this so that they can see your life, they can see all the different types of you that there are, and then they can know the impact of Christmas on life, the potentiality of their own life and their own future. There's one scene where the spirit of Christmas is really being tested, because scrooge is just so I'm preaching, so I won't tell you what's in my mind, so mean. He was just being so mean the people who came into his workshop just to raise some money for the people who were poor, to give some presents to kids whose parents were in prison, like we do during advent. They came in and what was his response? Are there no poor houses? Are The prisons not open? They thought he was joking in his meanness, but he wasn't joking. They sent him right out. And then his nephew comes by, as he had every Christmas for years, and he popped into scrooges office and he said, uncle's Cruige, come to dinner with US tonight. Mary Christmas. And he says, I don't know what you have to be marry with you, with your quite limited situation. That means you don't have much money. My friend, you shouldn't be so happy. Oh, come on, uncle, no, he didn't. And he went home and he told the story to his family and his wife was tempted to really let her husband know what she thought about that uncle scrooge and his miserly ways and his daring even to squash a gracious invitation on Christmas. And his nephew looked at his wonderful wife it said, sweetheart, it's Christmas, it's Christmas, let's toast uncle scrooge. And they all lifted their glasses and they toasted uncle scrooge. That is the fruit of the humility of God. If God could endure us, dear ones, if he would bend so low to a...

...people captivated by their idols, locked in the grip of death, in love with the pleasures of the world. And that wasn't enough to keep him away from us, but he came for US nonetheless and opened Paradise, joining Heaven and earth and giving us the path to eternal life with him. If that is true, then who can we be mad with? Who should we hold a grudge against? Who should we mock because of their bad behavior? Avier no, let's toast them that. We came to that passage and we had just run into a little conflict because we were going to seven or eight houses. One of the houses we've not always had the best experience at, let's just put it that way, and last year was the worst. Yeah, last year. We always bear gifts, by the way, we aren't just coming as a singly. We're not looking for, you know, putting. Give us some figgie pudding or we're going to do something to you know that. We weren't singing that. We brought the pudding, we brought the gifts and the music. Just for a minute. We just wanted to share a little Christmas chear. Last year they saw US coming and they went right back upstairs. So the kids were what, we're not going there, and then I looked at them and I said let's toast scrooge, and they all said yes, let's toast scrooge, and we went out and we did it. We went out there and we were impacted by Christmas. Dear ones, the text comes to a climax when scrooge makes his promise. He's changed his life. It's a beautiful, beautiful text, and he says I will honor Christmas in my heart and I will try to keep Christmas every single day. This is what it means to live Christmas, to let the actions of our God, His who his humble love for us, to be the guiding force in our life. All your luck, Merry Christmas. We hope that you have enjoyed and have been edified by this presentation offered to you by Patristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit organization committed to nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. If you are interested in other available titles or if you would like more information on patristic nectar publications, please visit our website at www dot patristic nectar dot org. Again, that's www dot patristic nectar dot org.

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