The Nativity Of Christ - 25th December

The Nativity or Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December.

Faithful Orthodox Christians fast in preparation for this feast for forty days beforehand, the fast beginning on November the 15th.  This fasting period is often referred to as advent.

Two Sundays before the Christmas the Nativity cycle of Bible readings commences.

The Second Sunday before the Nativity is called the Sunday of the Holy Ancestors of Christ.

The Sunday immediately preceding the Nativity is called  the Sunday of the Holy fathers.

The Forefeast of the Nativity commences on the 20th of December culminating on Christmas eve.  On Christmas eve the Vespers and the Divine Liturgy of St Basil is served. The Old Testament prophecies of Christ's birth are sung at these services.

The Christmas Vigil begins with service of Compline where five loaves of bread, wheat wine and oil are blessed and the Troparian and Kontakion of the feast are sung for the first time.

This is followed by Matins and the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom.

The Christmas season lasts for twelve days, from the Feast of the Nativity to Theophany (Epiphany).

The two days following the Feast are dedicated to the Theotokos to remind us that the incarnation of Christ came through Mary.

On the Sunday following Christmas we remember James Adelphotheos, the brother of our Lord and first Bishop of Jerusalem along with king David and Joesph the betrothed.

Eight days after Christmas on January the 1st we recall the circumcision of our Lord. The church Fathers tell us the Lord underwent circumcision to show the  that divine ordinances should be faithfully fulfilled and that no one could doubt that the Lord had indeed become man and that the icarnation was not an illusion.

During the Christmas season Orthodox Christians greet each other with the Christmas greeting - "Christ is Born"  to which the response is "Glorify Him".

The Gospel reading for the Christmas Liturgy is taken from Luke Chapter 2 verses 1-20
1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
Your Nativity, O Christ our God,
Has shone to the world the Light of wisdom!
For by it, those who worshipped the stars,
Were taught by a Star to adore You,
The Sun of Righteousness,
And to know You, the Orient from on High.
O Lord, glory to You!
Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One,
And the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One!
Angels with shepherds glorify Him!
The wise men journey with a star!
Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a Little Child!
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