Tag Archive for: Christmas

Advent 37-50: Christmas

Advent Day 37 of 50: Christmas

On this day of our Advent Journey we encounter Christmas. December 25 is widely accepted as the day of Christmas. For us, we will continue in the period of Advent considering our target is January 6, the Theophany. Tragically, no one can say with certainty what is the feast of Christmas today. For some it is the Birthday of Jesus, for others it is a purely secular holiday with holly leaves and beautiful ornaments. Between the religious and the secular celebration there are many different degrees and categories of the festival. Some agree that it is Jesus’ Birthday but it’s not necessarily tied with any religious significance; Jesus was a good man, nothing more. Others define themselves as Christian because on this day they decorate a tree and attend a Christmas service. Indeed, there are many different degrees and categories of the festival. And every one of those expressions can argue on legitimate grounds that they are celebrating Christmas.

We are content to call today Christmas. In contrast, the name we use to express the holiday is Asdvadzahaydnutiun  which literally means God’s Revelation, or Theophany, explains the position of the Church. It is for the Theophany that we are preparing ourselves on this Advent Journey. The Creator of the Universe and the Author of Life is revealed in our midst! And while we officially recognize the original date – January 6 – as the day to celebrate the Theophany, as Christians we must be ready, willing and able to celebrate the Revelation of God every day, January 6, 7 and 8. February 11, 12 and 13, April 14, 15 and 16 and every day and every opportunity we have to proclaim our joy and thankfulness for the life we enjoy through Jesus Christ.

It is for this reason we are on this Advent Journey, so that when we arrive at January 6, we understand the Essential Teachings of Jesus, and apply them to our life every day we breathe and live.

Merry Christmas, today and tomorrow. Celebrate the Birth, and enter now into the 12 days of Christmas to January 6. Far from pipers pipping, lords a leaping, maidens milking and a partridge in a pear tree, these next 12 days will conclude for you the study of the Essential Teachings of Jesus so that, as promised, on January 6, when you say “Christ is Born and Revealed” the words will have meaning for your life and the world you touch with your love.

A Christmas wish for you and our world…

May the joy of the angels,
the eagerness of the shepherds,
the perseverance of the wise men,
the obedience of Joseph and Mary,
and the peace of the Christ child
be yours this Christmas.
And the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be upon you and remain with you always. Amen.

Cover: Envato Elements


The Universe is an ordered system of bodies, forces and interactions. The Armenian Church organizes its liturgies and events according to a calendar. The post-Theophany period counts of 40 days to the event of “Dyaruntarch” or the Presentation, described in Luke chapter 2. It may seem a bit odd and backward, but during this post Theophany period, the events leading up to the Theophany are examine in Holy Scripture.

Often the Nativity of Christ, commonly referred to as Christmas, is considered as the first of all celebrations of Jesus Christ’s life. In fact, the Nativity, as well as every other celebration, is defined by the Resurrection, that is, the Easter celebration. In Jesus’ resurrection, death was conquered. “Christ has risen from the grave” was the first “gospel” of the Christian Church. Gospel means, the “Good News.” You might imagine that after the Resurrection, the early Christian community was completely baffled and in shock. They had witnessed the violent death of Jesus, an execution so heinously delivered that nobody would have believed that anyone could have possibly survived that death. And there was no reason to even consider Jesus’ survival because they removed his breathless body from the Cross and placed his body in a tomb. Resurrection was not even considered. But early that morning, Holy Scripture tells us, the visitors to the grave were surprised to find Jesus’ tomb empty.

The Christian Community, which became the Church, was defined by the Resurrection of Christ. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16) finds its meaning because of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. It was because of the Resurrection that people began to inquire about Jesus and his history, that is, who is he? Where did he come from? Who are his parents? And so on…

The Gospel narratives were written to share the Good News. The Good News was contained in the person of Jesus Christ. The Nativity narratives in St. Matthew and St. Luke’s Gospels were presented to answers questions people had about Jesus’ background: What were the circumstances surrounding his birth? Where was he from? What was the connection with Joseph the Carpenter?

As you recall, in preparation for the Theophany (the Advent period we just concluded) we focused on our spiritual growth to accept the power of the Theophany. Now, we too, like the early Christians, will look a back at the stories that come from Jesus’ childhood. For this reason, the Armenian Church assigns the Nativity narratives to the days following Theophany. The stories we are all familiar with peripherally, will be the focus of our next journey on the road to the Presentation or Diaruntarch.

We begin tomorrow with the stories that lead to the Birth of Christ, from the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke. Each day, we will read the Scripture and find the threads that tie the Birth of Christ, and to our lives today.

Let us pray, Lord Jesus Christ, we are in the joy celebrating your Nativity and Revelation. We stand in awe of your presence in our life. Open our hearts and our minds to all that is You, as we begin in our Scriptural study of the Nativity narratives. May your holy name be glorified today and always. Amen.


Partridge in a Pear Tree

Armodoxy for Today: Partridge in a Pear Tree – Advent

Christmas carols happen to be one of my favorite genres of music; however, usually by December 25th most of us have had our fill. Reprogramming our car radio button away from 24/7 Christmas carols might be easy enough, but don’t erasing your playlists too quickly, because today is the first day of Christmas and you know what that means… 12 days of Christmas with drummers drumming, maids a milking, gold rings and of course, a partridge in a pear tree.

Between December 25 and January 6 there are 12 days. It has been said that in early centuries, pilgrims who would go to pray at the sight of Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem would travel to the River Jordan, to offer their prayers at this place of His Baptism. The travel time by foot was approximately 12 days. In some churches the visitation of the Magi (gold, frankincense, and myrrh) is celebrated on January 6 justifying the elaborate gifting pattern during the 12 days of Christmas is expressed in the song. For the Armenian Church, the Nativity and the events to the Baptism are remembered on January 6. But calendar considerations are not what drives Armodoxy (#56). The 12 days of Christmas are the last sprint we have on the Advent Journey we began over a month ago.

Listen to the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” It is one of the favorite sing-along songs because each verse builds on the previous verse. We begin today with the partridge in a pear tree. Each day is a gift of value. Each day has a beauty to it, albeit in the eye of the beholder, but we can all agree that there is beauty and value to be found in each gift.

As we wind down our Advent Journey we come back to the tangible world we inhabit. Christianity is about the spiritual plane, yes, but it is grounded in the physical dimension as well. In other words what we learn from the spiritual lessons, we have to apply to our life in this world. For instance, we learn about loving one another, but this is not a concept, it is a way of life and therefore, we must practice the “loving one another” on the relationship we have in our lifetime.

As we go through the last 12 days before Christmas, we see a real world that is hurting. There are wars, some small, some large, but all of them are devastating. They strip us of our humanity. We live in a time where the need for peace is essential to our survival as a civilization. Countries and governments have the capability of obliterating our world and our planet many times over. These countries and governments are made up of people. The partridge in pear tree is a call to all of us to be attentive to the need to harbor peace and goodwill among one another. The greatest threat to our planet and our existence as a human race is our inability to understand one another. Jesus Christ, revealed in our midst, is for us to understand that we are all his children, as such we are all united with one another through blood and spirit. If God so loves us, and if God seeks to understand us, and if God gives us a path to understand Him, then the only logical next step is for us to love and understand one another. This knowledge, is the first step toward peace.

We appeal to the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Silent Night

Silent Night

The time has come. And the narrative according to St. Luke (2) is as follows:

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. … So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

The story of Jesus’ birth is remembered in song, in stories, in art, ornaments and lawn decorations. Some will elaborate about the attitude of the inn keeper, while other will amplify the song of the angels. Through the centuries people have tried to understand this magical evening with its troubling set of circumstances, when the Creator, the King of Kings, humbles Himself and is born in, what many would consider appalling surroundings, because there was no room, anywhere, for the birth of the savior.

The Birth of Jesus resonates to the bone in Armodoxy. For the Armenian people, the doors have not only been closed, but they have been slammed in their face. And so, Armodoxy presents an answer by assuring that others are not left out. Here is our call to Christmas: praise God for there is a chance at Peace on Earth and Good will toward all. This begins with Jesus’ command to love God and love your neighbor. If we do this, there can be no other option but PEACE and good will.

In 1914, during World War I, British troops fighting against Germans, in a field in Belgium, while in the trenches, heard the singing of Christmas carols by the German soldiers. From their three-foot wide trench they called out. The German in very thick accents yelled out to the Brits in English and said, “Come over here.” The British soldiers, said, “You come here!” And so they both came out of their trenches and met half way.  The soldiers traded songs, tobacco and wine, joining in a spontaneous holiday party in the cold night. Christmas Eve: peace on earth, good will toward one another.

I grew up when there was a horrible war going on in Vietnam. I remember that on Christmas Eve they would attempt to replicate the 1914 Christmas Eve truce. Sometimes they succeed and some years they didn’t, but it always bothered me that if they could have a truce for one or two days, why not forever? It begins with our articulating a very simple message, the message articulated this night: Peace on Earth, Good Will toward One Another.

We pray, Lord Our God, Jesus Christ, this night you came to live in our midst. We open our doors and our rooms for you to come in. As you do, may we see our brothers and sisters who are standing out with you. May we come to know them and find Your Presence in the faces and stories they carry. May Peace of Earth and Good Will toward each other be a reality that begins with me. Amen.

Silent Night, Sarah McLachlan

Two to Many

Armodoxy for Today: Two to Many – Advent Journey

As we move closer to Christmas on our Advent Journey, it becomes apparent that we will be meeting for Christmas on December 25th and then again on January 6th. Yesterday we spoke about the Winter Solstice, the birth of the sun and the Birth of the Son. Sometimes people, in their zeal to strike a conversation about Armenian Orthodoxy, will make a statement to the effect that Armenians are fortunate, they have two Christmas’ to celebrate. The statement is somewhat true, for in reality the Armodox understanding is even greater than two celebrations.

December 25th in the West and January 6th in Armenia are only dates of convenience, that is, dates on which the Birth of Christ may be marked and celebrated with official festivity, whether a worship service, a concert, or a party. Calendars are convenient means by which we measure time. There are groups that organize services by other calendars, for instance the Julian calendar, in which case their December 25th is on our January 7. Even within the Armenian Church there are differences of calendars. In Jerusalem the feast of Theophany – the Revelation of God – which we celebrate on January 6 is celebrated on the 19th of January.

Armodoxy, cuts through the conversion tables and date calculations and presents a very simplified – even more meaningful – proclamation of the date of Christmas. For a Christian, Christ is born every day. Imagine a world in which every day is celebrated as Christmas? The fundamental Faith that was expounded by Jesus Christ was exactly this! You don’t preach one thing, and live another way. You don’t turn on God today and forget about Him tomorrow. Christ is born and in our midst every day. The Christian lives with the celebration of God and man reconciled. The Christian every day strives for the message heralded by the angels on the night of Jesus’ birth, “Peace on Earth and goodwill toward one another.” (Luke 2:14) Looked at it another way, is there a day in our lives when we would not proclaim the Christmas greeting that Christ is born and revealed?

We learn today that Christmas is on December 25 and on January 6, but it also must be on February 11, August 31, September 7, in a word, every day. Armodoxy converts the two days of Christmas one final time to many days, to every day. It is with this understanding that we now proceed into the final days of the Advent season and our journey through it.

Let us pray, Lord God, help us to live as Christians every day of our lives. Celebrations of your birth are important markers on our calendars and reminders of a salvific event. Allow me to live my life so that I am marking every day as a day of celebration of the love you have for me and humanity. Amen.


Armodoxy for Today: The Solstice

A few years back, I found myself in a village in Rwanda working with genocide survivors. We conducted some informal interviews, became familiar with their daily activities and then, as the sun went down, people wound down, and pretty soon, 7:00PM, in the dark of the night, people were in their homes preparing for their evening rest. There was no sound throughout the village. I thought it odd that people would be preparing to sleep at this early hour. And then it occurred to me, that without electricity, without the artificial lighting that the electricity provides, for all intents and purposes the day was over with the sun set.

Today we celebrate the Winter Solstice. It is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. From the Summer Solstice to this day, the days have gotten shorter and shorter, and now, moving forward, there will be more hours of daylight per day to live and enjoy. In a world without electricity, you might imagine how welcomed the longer days ahead would be, so welcomed, that this day would be celebrated as the “birth of the sun.” Indeed, the sun stays out longer giving more possibilities for work, play, socializing, that is, possibilities for life!

To facilitate the spread of Christianity, the date of the Birth of Christ was moved to December 25 in the Roman Empire during the fourth century. Celebrating the birth of the Sun was replaced with the Christmas festivities, in honor of the birth of the Son! Meanwhile in Armenia, during the fourth century, the Winter Solstice was not celebrated to the extent it was in the Roman Empire. The date of Christmas was not changed and January 6 remains as the celebration date for Theophany. There are more factors for the different Christmas dates, but for today, suffice it to say, that Armenia was not touched by the date change. Until today, the Armenian Church celebrates the Nativity and Baptism of Christ on the same date, January 6.

The Solstice points to the cosmic time clock that has seasons and times changing over the globe. It’s a reminder that some of the great treasures of our Faith are found in the simplest phenomena of nature. Whether the birth of the sun or the birth of the son, there is a common thread that runs through both, namely, light. They are both gifts of light to the world.

How we process this revelation in the Christmas message, is how Armodoxy fits in to our cosmology. Join me tomorrow as we continue in the Advent Journey.

The Jesus Gift

Armodoxy for Today

The Jesus Gift

You’re at the Great Banquet (Luke 14). It’s a celebration. It’s a table set in the Kingdom. And now you realize that a banquet such as this must have a purpose. It does. It’s to celebrate the Kingdom of God. And the guest of honor is Jesus Christ.

Imagine being invited to a celebration for the Lord. Actually, you don’t need to imagine anything, the celebration of the Lord’s birth, or nativity, takes place at Christmas, and as we will eventually understand, it’s not limited to the day of Christmas. It is customary, courteous and in good taste to share a gift with the honoree. What gift could you possibly give Jesus? Trust me, there is nothing on Amazon, in a catalog, or anywhere that falls into the Jesus-gift category. Fortunately, Jesus has given us his wish list for to celebrate his birthday. It appears as a preface to the Great Banquet parable.

Jesus says, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

There it is. It’s the Jesus-gift. Once you realize you’re at the Table of the Lord, life and immortality are given as gifts to you. Life and life eternal, is a gift for which you have absolutely no way of putting a price tag on it. It is indeed priceless and impossible to payback, unless you do exactly what Jesus asks us to do, that is, to give a gift to those who have no way of paying you back. Did you catch the specific list of people mentioned by Jesus? He said, to offer an invitation to the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind. This is the same group which is identified as outcasts by the Parable of the Banquet.

Jesus could not spell it out any clearer, the greatest gift we can give Jesus for the celebration of his birth, is the gift he requests: do good to others, do to those who have no way to pay you back or return the favor.

This goes against everything we’re accustomed to do during the Christmas season, but this is the true gift of Christmas. In this gift we understand that the measure of love for God is based on our ability to love and care for one another. Christmas giving begins with the acknowledgement of Jesus’ Birth as a gift to us, and to share the joy by bringing goodness to others, especially the ones who have no way of returning the favor. The orgins of Christian gift giving stems from this simple understanding that the only way to acknowledge and thank God for the awesome gift of life is to share ourselves with other.

Christmas is now in our sights. Purpose and meaning are now coming into play as we move on with our Advent Journey.

We therefore pray, Lord, we thank you for the gift of life. We prepare ourselves for Christmas by opening our hearts to one another. Help me to share my love with others with no other expectation than the satisfaction of fulfilling Your Will. May I give to others, in the same spirit with which You have given to us and may my gratitude be expressed in the offerings I give to those in need. Amen.

Advent Adventures

Next Step #756 – December 1, 2022 – First steps toward the mystery of God’s revelation at Christmas, here is the Advent primer. Einstein mathematics: 50 days hath Easter as does Christmas. Jesus’ warning on the “fool.” New series on Epostle with Dr. Ani exploring monasteries. Armodoxy you won’t find in a museum. Healing at Christmas. Alchemy for Armenia: Jewelry to benefit Etchmiadzin renovation project. In His Shoes: How Jesus sees us. All on this episode.
Cover: Dog with Christmas Tree, EnvatoElements
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for https://Epostle.net
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Positive Steps

Armodoxy for Today
Positive Steps

We started our Advent Journey meeting the “Rich Fool,” a character in one of Jesus’ parables (Luke 12). In a sense, he is what we may call a negative hero, in other words, he’s the main character of the story who teaches us what not to be. Negative heroes are all too common in religious stories as well as in real life. In politics, some may vote for a candidate because s/he is not the other candidate. In business, some may choose to trade with one firm because it is not the other company. In so doing, we focus more on the negative attributes of one, instead of the positive attributes of another and in turn, we start seeing our religious obligations and responsibilities in terms of what not to do, rather than what to do.

The Advent Journey is a time for us to prepare ourselves for the message of Christmas. At the end of the journey is waiting Christ, as Gift, as Light, as Savior. The extreme and most positive expression in life will be waiting for us and we will react to that gift. That reaction is a movement, it’s a step forward in our life.

Over the past few days we looked at the Parable of the Rich Fool from a few different vantage points. At the end, if we are truthful with ourselves, we will discover that the Rich Fool is, in fact, us. Like the Rich Fool, we are each consumed by the riches and possessions which are polished by our ego, by our wants and desires. And all of these prevent us from experiencing the fullness of God and, therefore, the beauty of life.

Jesus prefaces the parable with the warning, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Taking this to heart, the first part of the Advent Journey is to inventory those things that matter and are important in your life and proactively, that is, take an action to celebrate the abundance of those things that matter in your life, such as your relationships, your love for others, the beauty of life that surrounds you. These are simple treasures that are accessible by all.

For today’s prayer I’d like to share with you a variation of Shnorhali’s prayer of the 9th hour, with an accent on doing: All provident Lord, give me the clearness of vision to look at the beauty around me, the sharpness of hearing to listen to the music of nature, the courage to speak words of truth, the clarity of heart to think goodness, strength to my hands to work toward justice and to my feet to walk in paths of righteousness. Guide my motions that they may be according to all your commandments. Amen.

Advent Cue

Armodoxy for Today – Advent
Advent Cue

Advent, means “coming.” The coming of the Lord was foretold centuries before his birth. His coming was announced by the angel of the Lord, “I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11). And for the last two thousand years we celebrate his coming as the Nativity, as the Revelation of God and of course, as Christmas.

Christmas is much more than the celebration we know of today. To better appreciate the celebration of Christmas, the Church has set up a period of preparation, which uses the name “Advent.” In other words, in preparing for Christmas, we focus on Christ’s coming to us in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, and into our lives today.

The first Sunday of Advent with its unique Gospel reading sets the pace and cues up the general tone for the days ahead. We find this parable which Jesus spoke in the Gospel of St. Luke (12)

“The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.  But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

This then is the starting point of the Advent journey. If necessary, read the parable again, paying attention to the words of the man. This is the starting point of our Advent Journey. We return tomorrow to continue.