SUBMIT YOURSELF … AND YOU WILL BE EXALTED
by Khoureeye Stefanie Yazge
One of my favorite hymns heard at Christmas (and as part of every Great Compline service) is "God is with us! Understand all ye nations, and submit yourselves, for God is with us!" Why? For several reasons. First of all, it is a strong reminder that the little Child we come to worship is not a mere baby but GOD Himself who loves us enough to have come to live and dwell among us and save us from eternal death and darkness. The verses of this hymn are from the prophecy of Isaiah, and tell us that this child is "to be called the Angel of Great Counsel, Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Ruler, Prince of Peace … and of his peace there will be no end … The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. To those who dwell in the land of the shadow of death, a light had risen." Hope has come for us! God Himself is with us.
The second reason is that this hymn gives a lesson in humility: "and submit yourselves…" That seems to be a virtue severely lacking today. Somehow, we often mistake submitting to anything or anyone (including God) as some sort of weakness. If we can't be in control and call the shots, then we are somehow inferior. Even worse, we have confused humility with humiliation and degradation. And we take this misunderstanding even into our relationship with God, where it becomes most inappropriate. Why? Because we know God to be the only one who knows our hearts and minds, our wants and needs. And God is the only one who loves unconditionally eternally. And what He wants for us is eternal life, with Him, in His kingdom. And His will for us every day is to make the choices that will keep us headed in that direction. That is what we mean by submitting to God. But we know that means saying "no" to temptations, to the inclination to take the easy or lazy way out at times, to deny ourselves. How many of us can say we are humble enough to even want to do God's will, not to mention actually doing it? We need to learn to submit to the love of God, with the purity and simplicity of the baby born of the Virgin Mary. Why? Because it is that baby who showed us that God the Father will exalt us for all eternity in heaven, as He exalted His own son. To submit to God means to live our own life as Christ lived His.
How did Christ live His earthly life? Christ was not arrogant. (Even though He could have been, because He really did know it all!) Though He taught with authority and showed His power in miracles, Christ spoke and acted with gentleness of heart. How He taught us to act can be found in part of the Beatitudes and the whole section of St. Matthew's gospel, ch. 5-7. And when He got angry (throwing the money changers out of His Father's house, the Temple), He wasn't throwing a tantrum because He couldn't have His own way. He was rightly infuriated that anyone dare to insult God. He told them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer'; but you make it a den of robbers." Christ always put what is true and right ahead of what is easy, fast or because he egotistically wanted His own way. His only desire was to do the will of His Father, and He submitted, even to death. Jesus Christ gave all that He was and had, to the glory of God and out of love for all of us.
We are called to submit to being what God created us to be. Fulfilling that calling, God will exalt us in a glorious resurrection as He has His son. And the first step to realizing that in our own life is to see God Himself — Emmanuel, God with us — in the little Child that the shepherds and magi and angels worshipped in the manger, and in all humility to come and worship Him, too, with all our hearts, our souls, our minds, our lips, and with our whole life.
Stefanie Yazge is the Khoureeye at St. George Church in Terre Haute, Indiana.
From Word Magazine
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America