In the ways of Divine Providence, the Lord God found a means of revealing Himself to people so that the fire of His Divinity would not burn the weak human nature and so that the light of Divine glory would not blind human eyes. In His wise counsel, God appointed to His Son to appear on earth in a humbled, chastened outward form of a Child. The incarnate Son of God lives on earth, where He begins His sermon and His Divine feat, walking the cities and villages of the Holy Palestinian Land for three and a half years, revealing His face to people, preaching to them about the Kingdom of God, and the salvation of our immortal soul; performing miracles, crying with those who weep, sighing with those who sigh, quenching human sorrows, healing the sick and absolving repentant harlots, sinners and publicans.
People saw their God in the flesh, and heard His Divine speeches in His own words. People were able to touch His Divine tunic, and threw their clothes under His feet. Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled: And they will call his name Immanuel, which means: God is with us (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23).
However, Emmanuel is not the name given to the Savior of the world; His given name was Jesus, which means “Savior.” Foreboding that the Child born of the Virgin would be called Immanuel, the prophet Isaiah signified the properties of the Divine Child Himself and the events, when people glorified their Lord, Who was born on earth, with these words, filled with spiritual delight: God is with us!
Let us ask ourselves: why did the earthly birth of the Savior of the world take place under the cover of mystery and in the darkness of the night? Because at that time only few were able not to be tempted by the humbled image of the Divine Child that the Savior chose for His appearance on earth. After a short time, the Magi, the righteous Simeon and St Anna the Prophetess, will preach about Him, and after a few decades, hundreds, thousands, millions of His followers will begin to grow continuously! But at that point in time people were not yet ready to meet and accept their Savior. And so, the darkness of the night covered this great and unrepeatable event with its mystery. The Savior of the world lies not in a soft cradle under a silk blanket, not in rich palaces, but in the manger of a wretched cave. In that, despite His helplessness, He is already giving us a life lesson, conveying to us the same message that in thirty years he will preach out loud to people.
He did not want people to worship luxury and wealth. If He was surrounded by them, the weak human nature would suggest to those worshipping Him to seek these earthly treasures from Him. He wants to show and expose the vanity and insignificance of everything that many people associate with glory, turning these things into passions, zealously pursuing them throughout their lives and considering them the height of their bliss.
Does this mean that the Savior, by His humble birth in a poor and wretched cave, wants to say that we should neglect our earthly life? Not in the least bit. He says nothing like this either by the circumstances of His birth, or in His teaching, taught to us, or by His very life. We know that in the days of His earthly life He rejoiced at human joys, grieved with our sorrows, blessed the marriage in Cana of Galilee and was friends with Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary whose house he enjoyed visiting. How could He be teaching us to despise earthly life if He wants us all to live it happily and joyfully?
But, whether while still a silent Child, or later, in His sermon, He wanted to tell us that everything earthly is temporary, that only the immortal soul is eternal, as well as the life into which each of us will enter in due time, having crossed the threshold of death. The Son of God appeared on earth in a humble, lamb-like form to show all of us that human pride and vanity are disgusting to Him and that the true path of His followers is the path of humility and non-exaltation.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds
Source: Metropolitan Nikolay (Yarushevich). About Orthodoxy. – Moscow: Publishing House of the Moscow Patriarchate, 2000