|Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes - Spiritual Nourishment for the Soul - December 2004|
The Empty Seat At The Banquet Table
Once a religious individual, who was a non-Christian, was invited to sit at a local banquet table for an important function aiming to raise funds for the homeless. Letters were sent throughout the city inviting both religious and non-religious people to help bring further aid for the homeless, with the request that as the event had been planned as a free banquet, all those planning to come, and who were able, should bring a bag of food to add to the “bring and share”. He gladly accepted.
All the religious individuals in the city had letters or phone calls to confirm that they were coming, and that members within their community had been invited to this free banquet. The food at the banquet would be limited, since it was a fundraiser for the homeless.
But one non-religious individual within the community refused to attend, as he asked this question: “Would the name Jesus Christ be mentioned”?
“Yes,” replied the organizer on the line.
The next response was: “If you do not mention Jesus Christ, I will attend.”
The response to this statement was that this was a banquet to help our fellow man, our neighbors within the community, who were in desperate need of assistance, and the name of Jesus Christ would certainly be mentioned because it would be from the Gospels that the challenge to help the homeless would come. So because the name of our Lord offended him, he wouldn’t go.
Have you noticed lately that we can hardly even mention in public the name Jesus Christ, or even the name of the festival we are celebrating? When we go to buy food nowadays, during these holy days of preparation for our Lord’s Holy Nativity, we hear from the person helping us say, “Thank you for shopping with us, and may you have a happy holiday,” or some similar words. Seldom do we hear today “Merry Christmas!” Rather we hear: “Happy Holidays!” Another trend we see is that fewer and fewer people are decorating their homes for the preparation for our Lord’s Nativity. Just to make a point the Orthodox faithful do say “Merry Christmas”, but they also confess at the feast of our Lord’s Holy Nativity up until the eve of the feast of His Holy Theophany: Christ Is Born! The response is then said: Glorify Him!
Nobody wants to offend anyone, so we become defensive and say: “I will have - thank you, and you too.” We become afraid to even say “Merry Christmas” in response! Why is it that we are getting more and more afraid to witness to the faith we believe in? Why do we not say in response, “and a blessed Nativity of our Lord to you too,” or even just say “Merry Christmas!”
Our Lord Jesus Christ was born for our salvation, and that we too should seek to be like God, living as pious and loving Orthodox Christians, being lights of truth in the world and witnessing with joy and commitment to the faith we love.
If any of us go out to dinner, do not be afraid to stop of a moment and say a prayer together as a family. Say the great prayer that Jesus Himself taught us, the Our Father, and then at the end of this prayer: “we thank you for this food and blessing” and making the sign of the cross.
Do not be afraid to wear your cross, or share with others that you are a Christian. We should all love our faith. We should pray for the person who says “have a Happy Holiday” that they may be drawn to the light that is Christ. Respond by saying: “I shall indeed have a blessed feast of our Lord’s Holy Nativity, and may our God bless you too during these holy days.”
As we all get together at our local parish and celebrate our Lord’s Holy Nativity, we can truly Glorify Him with a loving heart that He came to the world to save us, help us, and keep us by His grace - all out of love for us! The seats at the great banquet in Paradise will always be reserved for those who love our Lord God and confess Him as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
A blessed feast day of our Lord’s Holy Nativity to you and your beloved family!
Christ Is Born!
Humbly In The Love Of Christ Our Lord,
+Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth Peace, Good Will Toward Men!
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(c) Reverend Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes