In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
I wish now to address myself to those of you who do not speak Russian, and beyond the walls of this church to all those who can hear our service and pray with us, and be at one with us.
In a night similar to this one, a winter night, in a manger was born the Son of God Who has come into the world to bring us a new dimension of life, to proclaim to us God's truth about Himself and God's truth about men, and not only proclaim it, but to make it possible for us to participate in this mystery of communion between God and man. He has brought us a word about God which is a word of absolute truth, and has proclaimed the greatness of man in terms that are greater than all the imagination, which man had in the course of centuries, all the dreams: man called to be united to God as God united Himself to men in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Man, in the words of St Ireneus of Lyon, called in his perfection and fulfilment, to be the glory, the shining, the resplendence of God on earth. We are called to proclaim to the whole earth this good news that God is one of us, and that we are the sons and daughters of our eternal Father.
But we must proclaim the Gospel in its integrity, in an unadulterated manner because it is God speaking, God proclaiming the truth, and there is no adjustment which can be acceptable to the Gospel.
The wise men who came to the manger, came with all the wisdom of the earth, all the knowledge that was then possessed, but they could recognise in the Babe of Bethleem the incarnated Son of God and worship Him as their King and their God because they were prepared to allow divine wisdom to supersede all wisdom of the earth. It is not in vain that saint Paul has said that compared to wisdom Divine human wisdom is nothing but folly, a poor thing compared to the greatness of the mind, and heart, and wisdom of God. And we must have the determination to open ourselves to the wisdom of God, be prepared to judge all things of the earth from the point of view of the living God. Our thoughts, our feelings, our ways fall under the divine judgment . My ways are not your ways, and My thoughts are not your thoughts; My ways are so much above yours as My thoughts are greater than yours, — says the Lord.
But it is not only wisdom, it is also simplicity and singleness of heart that can both see God, recognise Him and follow Him with infinite daring. The shepherds came because the ir hearts were open, because they were prepared to understand that there are things greater than anything they can imagine, anything they could dream of. And dreams of men came true: God became man. And He calls us to be a vanguard of His Kingdom. He sends us into this world to proclaim His truth, pure, unstained, He sends us into this world to live in such a way that anyone meeting a Christian, looking into his eyes, into his life or meeting a Christian community should recognise that these people are men and women partaking already of the mystery of eternal life. Short of this we betray our calling. We must each of us and all of us be a revelation to the world of things eternal. We must learn from St Paul both the daring and the wholeness, the integrity of our Christian ways. He says to us: Be follower of me as I am of Christ... He was a persecutor, an unbeliever, and having met Christ face to face, the risen Christ, Who he knew had been killed on Calvary, murdered by his own people, he chose for Him and all his life was changed. Persecution, danger, beatings, rejection became his lot in orfer for him to be Christ's only; and to be Christ's only as he puts it means that all life is nothing but Christ, what he stands for, what he teaches, what he lived for, what he died for.
And death has no terrors for us, because nothing can deprive us of eternal life and the loss of temporal life is of no account to St Paul. He says: To die is not to divest myself of temporary life but to cloth myself with eternity... He longs to be reunited with Christ, Whom he has persecuted on earth, and for Whom, for Whose name, for Whose sake he lives and preaches and warns us, into us not to subtract or add anything to God's own message about man and about God. And he calls us in the face of our longing for eternity to accept to live as long as it is necessary, as tragically as necessary for others to discover life eternal, the kingdom of God, which is the kingdom of love, of that love which Christ has revealed into us, love to the end, love crucified and love risen. Glory be to our Lord, to our God, to our Saviour for ever and ever. Amen.