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SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS
fr_basil
Sunday after Nativity
King David, Joseph the Betrothed, James the Brother of God, the 14,000 Holy Innocents Slain by Herod in Bethlehem
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Christ is Born!
On the two Sundays leading up to Christmas, the Church had us pause and reflect on all of those holy forefathers, both the physically related and the spiritually related ones, who pointed the way to Christ. Today we commemorate three more saints who are closely and directly related to our Lord. They are: David the King and Prophet, Joseph the Betrothed, and James the Brother of the Lord. From each one of these righteous men – David, Joseph and James – we can learn a great deal about the spiritual life.
King David was the divinely appointed King of Israel. He is described in the Bible as “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). Although he was far from perfect, he had strong faith, and wanted God to be glorified above everything else.  David is the source of the royal line of the Jews from which both the the Theotokos and the righteous Joseph were descended. Because of this lineage, our Lord Jesus Christ could properly be called, "King of the Jews" because at least according to the flesh, He is of the House and lineage of David. Of course, according to His Divinity,  He is the maker and ruler of all creation, and therefore is not only King of the Jews as Pilate had written on the Cross, but is, in fact, the King and Ruler of all that exists. That's why in the icons where Christ is shown seated upon the Royal Throne, it is referred to as the “Pantocrator” or “Vse Derzhitel” the “Ruler of All.” David was, as I said before, a man after God's own heart. The Bible describes him as such. Even when he fell into grave sin, we see from David's deep and heartfelt repentance our own path back to God when we fall.
James, was the Step-Brother of the Lord. He was the only one of Joseph's sons from his first wife, who wished to include Jesus as a full member of the family when the question of inheritance from Joseph came up.  Hence the Church not only calls him the “Brother of the Lord,” it also calls him the “Brother of God.” For as James included Jesus in his earthly family, the Lord adopted James into the Divine one! According to tradition, he accompanied the All-Holy Theotokos when she, with the Baby Jesus and Joseph, fled into Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod. St. James was strictly devout from his youth up. Distinguished by a very ascetic way of life, he observed the strictest fasting; he drank no wine, ate no meat, didn't cut his hair, wore no soft clothes but wore only coarse camelhair cloth. When he did his rule of prayer, he frequently accompanied his prayers with prostrations. In fact, he practiced this asceticism with such fervor that hardened callouses formed on his knees, like a camel's, from the frequent prostrations. For such a virtuous life James was known to all the people as “the righteous one,” and so earned great respect among even the Jewish leaders. After the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he was accounted worthy of a special appearance of the Lord, testified to by the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 15:7). He was the first bishop of the Church in Jerusalem. He presided over the first apostolic council, which is described in the book of Acts, and was finally martyred for his confession of faith in Jesus Christ.
Joseph, the betrothed, was chosen by God to be the guardian of Jesus Christ and His Most Pure and Holy Mother, a task which he performed with great humility and diligence.  Joseph at the time of the birth of Christ was quite old. He had been a widower for many years with at least six grown children. At the time he was chosen to be the guardian of the Most Holy Virgin he was already 80 years old, and according to the Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints of St Dimitri of Rostov, he lived to be 110 (meaning that he died just before Jesus began His public ministry).
Although he was of royal lineage (being in the line of David the King) Joseph was a poor man who earned his living as a carpenter. It was extremely hard labor, and this was his daily life. Joseph was a righteous man, that is, he heard the word of God and kept it. When the Virgin was found to be with child, he was assailed with what the fathers call “logismoi,” evil thoughts prompted by the devil. In fact, in the icons of the Nativity, we almost always see a scene in which Satan, portrayed as a bent-over shepherd, is tempting Joseph with a flood of doubting thoughts.  But an angel came to him in a dream and revealed to him that this pregnancy was not the fruit of sin, but rather that it was the miraculous fruit of righteousness and that the Virgin had been chosen by God to bear the Messiah, miraculously conceived without an earthly father.
Even though his belief was tested by the evil one, Joseph remained faithful to the word of God that had been given to him by the angel. Later, after the birth of the Child, an angel again came to him and instructed him to take the Child and his mother into Egypt to avoid the wrath of Herod. Here we see a man, over 80 years old, in obedience to the word of God embark upon a very difficult journey over the sands of the desert from Israel into Egypt, aided only by his one loyal son James.  But Joseph, putting his trust in God, obeyed. Joseph shows us a shining example of how we ought to order our own lives. Just as he did, we should trust in God; we should hear the word of the Lord and more than hear, we should order our lives in obedience to it. Just as he served God in imitation of the angels, we should serve our Lord Jesus Christ in the same way.
Amen.

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