What does the Afterlife have to do with Christmas? Making Christmas meaningful to you today.

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Last week I had the blessing of speaking virtually to a wonderful group of Coptic youth in Pittsburgh. The servants there asked that I correlate the Afterlife and Christmas, which may seem like an unusual and difficult correlation to make, but in fact not only is there a direct connection between the two, Christmas is even more relevant now. A link to the video presentation / lecture I prepared is provided below.  Continue reading

Why change Orthodox Christmas date? Change the whole calendar!

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I don’t know about you, but after December 25th comes and goes, the remaining time between then and Orthodox Christmas January 7th doesn’t feel as much like the Christmas season, because most of the world has stopped celebrating it as such. The lights begin to come down, the movies and the songs revert back to normal, and everything else just reminds us Orthodox that we celebrate Christmas on a different day. And so, it is natural that around this time of year many of us begin to think about the Christmas date and whether we should be celebrating it all together at the same time. This idea particularly made waves when Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Church discussed it with a congregation in Canada when he visited back in September, 2014. And the reaction to this was very heated, with many alarmed and even angered by such a suggestion, while others absolutely loving it.

Here is what I say to everyone: Let’s not just change the Christmas date, but let’s adjust the entire Coptic calendar!  Continue reading

Why Christ and Christmas are Cooler Than Thor

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Last year I published this article in the Mighty Champions Magazine, a teen magazine produced by the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern U.S.A.. I’m a huge fan of all that superhero stuff (especially my comic I’ve been collecting since the beginning: Miles Morales Spider-man comics—I have every single comic since he came out).

A lot of times superheroes are given “Savior” story lines. That’s what they do. They are super and they are heroes because they do phenomenal things to save people and often the world or even the universe from destruction.

So here I wanted to compare the story of the famed Thor with the story of Christ: who is a cooler super hero?  Continue reading

(Caution: Contents may be hot.) The problem with Starbucks and the “war” on Christmas: not worth the fight

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Many are aware by now that Starbucks this year has decided to remove “symbols of the season” to “usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories” (as the company’s vice president has stated). It is stirring up a lot of controversy, with many Christians quite upset, calling it a “war” on Christmas, even to the point that Donald Trump suggested the company should be boycotted.

I’ve got three things to say—to Starbucks, to Christians, and on behalf of Christians—and although many may not agree, here’s my take: Continue reading

“Christ is Born!” … “Glorify Him!” – Exploring Why This Orthodox Greeting is Uncommon in the Coptic Church

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“Christ is born!” my priest says to begin his Nativity Feast sermon. Although he has taught us the response many times before, only a handful of people shout back “Glorify Him,” and even fewer (understandably) respond, “Truly He is born!” And as usual, Fr. Luke tells us that this is an Orthodox greeting that we unfortunately do not say.

But why is that? Is it really an ancient greeting? Was it used by the early church? And why is it so prevalent in the Eastern Orthodox Church and yet absent in the Coptic Church?

I don’t have all the answers, but here is what I could gather.  Continue reading

Keep Those Graven Images Coming! It Shouldn’t Stop with Just the Manger Scene

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I saw the meme image above and realized how truly astonishing it is that many Christian denominations treat religious images (e.g., statues, icons, pictures, crosses with Christ on it [a.k.a crucifixes], and even sometimes a simple cross) as being something absolutely heretical and unacceptable in God’s eyes.

Unfortunately, while most of them seem to understand the value and harmless character of religious imagery during the Christmas season, once it ends its back to the passionate decree: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image” (Exodus 20:4).

Continue reading

Why Christ Had to Be Born, Not Just Appear In Spirit, To Save Us: According to St. Athanasius

Christ's Incarnation -- The Reason For Season[This post is derived from a Sunday School lesson given 12/14/2014. You can download the presentation here]  [Also, click on the above image for a full high resolution version that you can download and share as you wish!]

St. Athanasius’s “On the Incarnation” is a must read for every Christian, Orthodox or not. (A free public copy is provided at the end of this post). Don’t take my word for it; C.S. Lewis, famous author and writer of the Chronicles of Narnia series (among many other works), called it “a masterpiece.”

St. Athanasius answers fundamental questions in the work, including:

  • Why couldn’t Adam and Eve have just repented?
  • What does it mean that they would “surely die”?
  • Why was Christ born?
  • Why couldn’t Christ have just saved us by appearing in spirit, without becoming incarnate?

Here is a summary of what the 20th Archbishop of Alexandria had to say in the first couple of chapters:

Continue reading

Why and How We (Copts and Eastern Orthodox) Fast Before Nativity (Christmas)

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As Americans approach the Thanksgiving holiday, many Orthodox Christians openly or secretly grumble about how the Nativity (a.k.a. Christmas/Advent) fast interferes with their holiday eating plans. So let’s take a moment to understand why and how we (should) fast before celebrating the incarnation of our divine Lord, taking flesh and living among us.

Basics 

How many days do we fast before Christmas?

  • 40
  • (and if you are Coptic Orthodox, add an additional 3 days [reason explained below])

Spiritual basis for length of fast 

The Coptic Church as well as the Eastern Orthodox agree regarding the spiritual basis for the length of the fast. Continue reading

Why the Resurrection Is the Reason for the Season, More So Than Christmas

Resurrection the Reason for the Season, Not Christmas

As we approach the Christmas season, I can’t help but think of the oddity, especially of the western world, in the way people celebrate Christmas more than Christ’s resurrection. Don’t get me wrong. I love the Christmas season. Santa Claus, Christmas movies, the trees, the lights, the smells, the sounds, the food, everything. But what does the Resurrection get? A bunny? Some egg picking? Pastel colors? Seriously?

If you don’t believe me when I say things are flip-flopped, look at what I read on Al-Ahram Weekly’s website about how people in the middle east celebrate Christmas, as exemplified by Egyptian Christians: Continue reading