Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
But when the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying “Abba! Father!” So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir. Galatians 4:4-6 (Epistle Reading from Christmas)
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
Many of us remember the musical “Annie.” It was about a little orphan girl who lived “a hard-knock life” in a dingy orphanage with a house mother, Miss Hannigan, who treated her terribly. Annie tried to escape to find her parents but was caught and returned to the orphanage. Later on, a billionaire businessman, Oliver Warbucks (Daddy Warbucks) invited Annie to come to his mansion for the Christmas holidays. He put out a reward for anyone who could prove that they were Annie’s real parents. Meanwhile, he really began to love Annie. Some deceit led to him almost losing Annie but eventually he adopted her. She left the former life that she had, and found a safe haven with a “new father.” She reaped not only material sufficiency but emotional stability.
In many ways, before Christ came, the human race was like Little Orphan Annie. It had not been abandoned by its Father, for God had never abandoned His children, but rather people had estranged themselves from God. Christ came to show us a better way. He chose us, He chose all of us, and wants to rescue us from the dangers of those who have no “parent” to guide them. And He wants us to come to His house, where the blessings are overwhelming. He does not want us only to feel like guests though. He wants to adopt us as His children, with all the benefits of “sonship,” including a hefty inheritance, which is eternal life.
There is a difference between being a son and being a servant. We are servants of God, but we are also His children. A servant is hired. A son is chosen. A servant can be fired. A son is for life. God doesn’t desire to have us sit at His table as servants. He wants us to sit as His children. God has shown us the way to Him is by serving one another, and by serving one another we serve Him. When Jesus sat at the table with His disciples at the Last Supper, He washed THEIR feet, showing them what it means to be a servant. By dying on the cross for us, He has shown the kind of love that only a parent can show—He gave His life for His children.
When we are estranged from God, we are like the Little Orphan Annie, living without proper spiritual and emotional support. Eventually we will all suffer from lack of material things—think about the person on their death bed who is materially rich but still confined to the hospital bed. God wants us to have emotional and spiritual riches. The emotionally rich are filled with love—love for others, knowing that others love them. And the spiritually rich are also filled with love—because they love God and they KNOW that God loves them, and not as servants, but as children. The spiritually rich are waiting for their turn to go to the “mansion” of their “Daddy.” Emotional riches are acquired by learning to love your neighbor and by serving your neighbor with a servant’s heart. Spiritual riches come from loving God and recognizing that you are a “child” of God, who loves God as a Father, who trusts God as a child trusts his father.
One crucially important difference between our earthly fathers and our Heavenly Father—in order for us to be inheritors of our earthly fathers, they have to die, and this makes us rightfully sad. Christ has already died for us, and lives again. The inheritance is already ours to be had. He doesn’t have to die for us to have our inheritance because that has already happened. And even though we won’t receive the full measure of our inheritance until we die, we receive pieces of our inheritance everyday through the blessings He bestows on us in this life, in preparation for everlasting life.
Being a Christian doesn’t necessarily spare you from a “hard-knock life” in this world, but it opens the door for you to be an heir of everlasting blessings in the world to come.
Your Kingdom, O Christ God, is a kingdom of all the ages, and Your dominion is from generation to generation. You who were incarnate by the Holy Spirit and became man by the ever-Virgin Mary, have shone on us as light, by Your advent, O Christ God. Light of light, the brightness of the Father, you have brightened all creation. Everything that breathes praises You, the express image of the Father’s glory. O God, the One who is and who pre-existed, and who shone forth from the Virgin, have mercy on us. (Stichera from Vespers of the Nativity, Trans. Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Honor our Father today!
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The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is an official agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. OCN offers videos, podcasts, blogs and music, to enhance Orthodox Christian life. The Prayer Team is a daily devotion written by Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, the parish priest at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, Florida. Devotions include a verse from scripture, a commentary from Fr. Stavros, and a short prayer that he writes to match the topic.
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