Excerpt from Photios Kontoglou on Christmas, from his book "Aivali, my Fatherland"
The spiritual joy and heavenly exaltation which the Christian senses at Christmas cannot be sensed with any other approach, such as he who celebrates it as only a moving occurrence, which is associated with other common joys of the world, with winter, with snow, with a warm cup of tea.
Only the Orthodox Christian celebrates Christmas spiritually, and from his soul he passes the season with sanctified feelings, and we are warmed with a paradoxical warmth which comes from another world, the warmth of the Holy Spirit, according to the Hymn of Ascent which says: "By the Holy Spirit, every soul is given life, and cleansed and exalted and made shining by the Three-fold Monad, in a hidden manner."
Soul and body celebrate together, exalting with divine joy which cannot be sensed by one who is separated far away from Christ. While in the heart of the Christian, these holy days are full of the fragrance of hymnody, full of a most-sweet spiritual radiance, which covers all creation, the mountains, the sea, every rock, every tree, ever stone, every creation. Everything is sanctified, everyone celebrates, everyone chants, everyone rejoices, all creation is "as an olive tree filled with fruit in the house of God". No one can sense such joy in his heart except only he who...loves God and who lives these days of his life together with God, because no one else other than God can give such joy, such peace, according to the word which the Lord said at the Mystical Supper: "My peace I give to you, I do not give you peace like the world gives."
The joy of Christ and peace is transformational by the joy and from the peace of this world. Because of this, the man who rejoices when he goes to church in order to...drink from that immortal spring of joy and peace, says together with the Prophet David: "Send forth, O Lord, Your light and Your truth, they will lead me and take me to Your holy mountain, and to Your dwelling places, and I will go towards the altar of God, to God Who makes glad my youth."
Let us also therefore celebrate, my brethren, the Nativity of Christ "in spirit and truth, in psalms and hymns and spiritual odes", and then everything else will be "added unto us", we will be seen with joy in our home, in our family, in nature, in our social interactions, in pure conversations, because everything will be sweetened by the love of Christ, and will be warmed by the warmth of Him Who is the giver of life.
My brethren, the Nativity of Christ is a great lesson for us on humility. Where was he born? In a manger, more properly in a crib, that we might more deeply sense the unspeakable condescension of God, because the ancient words are made to our eyes to appear rich, and poor things. His mother, the Most-holy Theotokos, far from her house, a stranger in a strange land, went and gave birth in a pen. The ox and the ass warmed Him with their breath. Shepherds were His friends. Together with the newborn lambs was numbered the Lamb of God, Who came to this world to save man from the curse of Adam. What man could be born with a greater humility?
St. Isaac the Syrian writes, in his Word on Humility, the following remarkable words: "I want to open my mouth, my brethren, and speak about the most exalted notion of humility, and I am full of fear, like that man who knows how he will speak of God. Because humility is the cloak of the godhead. Because the Word of God Who became man, became clothed in her, and came in contact with her, taking on a body like ours. And whoever is clothed in her truly becomes like Him, Who descended from the heights, and Who covered with His virtue His grandeur and His glory with humility. And He became like this that creation might not be consumed by beholding Him. Because creation could not gaze upon Him, if He were not to take a part of it and spoke through it. He covered His greatness with flesh, and with this came to dwell with us, with the body which He took from the Virgin and Theotokos Maria. Therefore, as we see how He is of our race and how He speaks like a man, let us not be afraid of His throne. Because of this, whoever puts on the robe that the Creator wore (in other words, humility), He clothes himself in Christ".
The manger is the humble heart, and only within her can Christ come to be born.
Our Church radiantly shines within the darkness of winter, celebrating the Nativity of the Lord. From within her is heard a hymn that surpasses this world, like that which was chanted by the angels the night when the Lord was born, "a sound of pure celebration".