God smiles at us from the Bethlehem crib. He believes in us even when we don’t believe in Him. He is waiting for our repentance. He is waiting for our love, for it was love that led Him to be born in a carpenter’s family. It was love that led Him to endure cold and heat, thirst and hunger, mockery and indifference. He came to destroy our disbelief and our loneliness with His Cross and His ministry. He wants us to give Him just one thing, which rightfully belongs to Him alone and which only we can give Him: My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways (Proverbs 23:26). That’s the gift that our Savior wants from us this Christmas: our loving heart. Let’s give Him that gift and smile back at Him.
In all their affliction he was afflicted,
and the angel of his presence saved them:
in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;
and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.
Did Baby Jesus cry when He was born into this world? Apparently yes, for He is a human being, too, and is like us in all respects, except sin. Being the eternal Wisdom of God, the Logos, the Lord knew about the road of the Cross that He had to go through since the beginning. He was born to drink the cup of suffering for all people and die so that we who believe in Him could die with Him in the waters of the Baptism and rise from the dead to live forever with Him. Perhaps, this is the reason why Orthodox icons of the Nativity depict Baby Jesus in a crib that resembles a coffin. Yet, I like to think that Baby Jesus smiled at our world, smiled at the human race as He lay in the lap of His most pure Mother.
God Smiled at the Shepherds
There were shepherds with their flock in the fields not far from Bethlehem on that glorious night. What did those men have in mind? They must have been busy thinking about their daily routines and small and big misfortunes of their harsh and difficult lives. Their problems only grew worse with that new census, which could mean more taxes and more burden on the Jewish people. Suddenly, they heard an Angel who brought them happy news from God, For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11). But first, the Angel said, “Fear not!” (Luke 2:10) We often read this message on the pages of the New Testament. It permeates the entire history of our salvation. People, fear not! For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder (Is. 9:6). God has come to this world so that we could have a great hope for life—and an abundant one—in spite of all troubles and sorrows that we have to face day-to-day.
God Smiled at Angels
It might sound strange but God’s incarnation was a source of great joy for the Angelic world, too. These first intelligent creatures give incessant praises to God and behold His glory. They are in the state of bliss but apparently, when the Lord united the uncreated Divine nature and the created human nature, it was a boon not only for the fallen human race, which it was intended for, but a benefaction for the countless heavenly hosts, too. And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels… (cf. 1 Tim. 3:16). Truly, this mystery is great. The Angels rejoiced at the Incarnation of the Logos also because, as Jesus said, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth (Luke 15:10). Thanks to the incarnation of the Lord of Hosts, whole nations will repent and believe in the Messiah and great hosts of saints from all ends of the earth will sing eternal praises to God along with the Angelic choirs.
God Smiled at the Three Wise Men
When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy (Matthew 2:10). God smiled at the Wise Men who kept staring at the night sky in intense anticipation of the signs that God had promised, for He once said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years” (Gen. 1:14). God smiled at them and sent them a star that led them to His beloved Son who is the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star (Rev. 22:16). When they observed stars and celestial bodies, did they expect to see the star that Balaam had prophesied about so boldly? There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth (Num. 24:17). As soon as they saw Baby Jesus lying in the crib, the Wise Men may have exclaimed the same words that the great John Chrysostom later did in his works, “What do I need heaven for when I can see the Lord of the Heaven?” The Lord calls upon the Wise Men, “I’ve brought you to Myself with help of a star. Now leave your stars behind and follow Me, carrying your crosses.”
God Smiled at the Calf and the Donkey
Yes, God loves animals, too. He created them to enjoy their lives, praising their Creator, the great Conductor of all living beings and all cosmos. Man fell, and the animal world fell with him, and the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now (Rom. 8:22). When the Savior comes into this world, He transforms it, and so the animals are also happy at seeing their Master come to liberate them. Look at the Orthodox icons of the Nativity: the donkey and the calf are looking at the Lord with so much love, tenderness, and devotion. They warm the Divine Baby up with their breath. O Lord, thou preservest man and beast (Ps. 36:6).
God Smiled at Virgin Mary and Joseph the Betrothed
Finally, God smiled at His parents: the Most Pure Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary and Holy Joseph the Betrothed. Saint Joseph had clearly gone through lots of temptations and doubts but, according to the Scripture, an Angel of the Lord instructed him in a dream and bolstered his faith in God’s Plan and in the innocence of Mary. Joseph had humbly accepted the God’s Plan and was happy to raise the young Jesus who became his good helper throughout the rest of Joseph’s life.
As far as the Virgin was concerned, She had a unique road in front of Her. A road of joy and pain and suffering; a road of great comfort and of great sorrow. The Mother of God carried the Cross that the Lord had given to Her with dignity. She was exalted by God to a height that is beyond reach even for the Cherubim: She stands to the right hand of the Lord, according to the Psalmist. She always intercedes for everyone who prays to Her.
By John Nichiporuk,
a Bachelor of Theology,
specialized in Biblical Studies.
The Catalog Of Good Deeds, 2018