Faithful Ruth

   How beautifully is everything decorated all around us these days! The roads, the houses, the shops… And while we enjoy all these in the Christmas spirit, each one of us is waiting for something. Something, or maybe Someone? Yes, the great Visitor, Jesus Christ. The King of the kings is going to be born once more on our earth. He is coming! The Old Testament, centuries before Christ’s birth, was trumpeting this great announcement. He is coming! The faithful and righteous people of the Old Testament were waiting for Him. This was their desire: if only Christ could be born from their own generation! Every year we honor Christ’s forefathers before Christmas. Among them there is a non-Israelite woman: Ruth.
   Her story is being narrated in the eighth book of the Old Testament, which was named after her. She was a woman of true faith, alike with patriarch Abraham’s faith. She didn’t belong to Abraham’s descendants; she was a Moabite. The Moabites were descended from Lot, Abraham’s nephew. Unfortunately, they had abandoned real God and worshipped the idols. Ruth met real God through her mother-in-law, Naomi. Naomi had emigrated to the nearby country of Moab accompanied by her husband and her two sons, because of the starvation Palestine had been suffering from. But more tragedies were to come: After ten years she lost her husband and her two sons. She was left alone with her two Moabite daughters-in-law in a foreign country. She was looking forward to return to her hometown. She wanted to live with God’s chosen people. As soon as she was informed that things were improving back home and that there was food for everyone, she decided to return. But what about her young daughters-in-law? She advised them to return to their own mothers and remarry. She bid them farewell, kissed them affectionately and wished them God’s blessings. But for her surprise they didn’t want to leave her.
   “We are coming with you”. They said.
   “No, my daughters, what will you gain by staying with me, a miserable and sad woman? You should return to your homes”, she responded.
   But she managed to persuade only the one daughter-in-law. Ruth had made her decision and wouldn’t change her mind. She wanted to follow Naomi. Not only to support her, but she wished to belong to God’s chosen people. Ruth didn’t believe to dead idols and neither wanted to live like her pagan fellowmen. Near Naomi she had met real God and she wanted to worship Him and live according to His commandments. When her sister-in-law left, Ruth said:
   “I will not abandon you. I will go wherever you go and I will stay wherever you stay. Your people are my people and your God is my God”. In those words, one can detect the greatness of her faith! She believed that Naomi’ s God was the only real one and she was afraid of losing Him, if she left Naomi!
 Ruth  Therefore, she came with her mother-in-law to Bethlehem in Judaea. At first, she faced severe hardships. She had to work really hard. She had to go to the fields- it was harvest time- to glean what the workers dropped from their bundles. This was quite a humiliating job that only very poor people used to do. She worked hard and restlessly all day long, in order to support both herself and her mother-in-law. She was eager to make any sacrifice for the real God.
   Booz was the master of the fields she went to. He was impressed because Ruth was hard-working and modest. But most of all, he was impressed by her story and her true faith. She had left her country and her relatives and settled in an unknown land, only because she believed in those people’s God.
   Therefore, he really appreciated Ruth and behaved to her with kindness from the very beginning. He ordered his workers to talk to her with politeness, help her and give her from their already made bundles. After a while, God blessed their marriage. Indeed, Booz chose Ruth for his wife, a poor Moabite woman, because of her true faith. For Booz this was her most precious wealth. He made the correct decision. Because of Ruth’s faith, God granted them with a special, admirable blessing: Christ came from their descendants! They gave birth to a graceful son, Obed, who became the father of Jesse and Jesse was David’s father. Holy Mary’s lineage was from David’s generation. Therefore, Ruth, David’s great grandmother, had the special honor that all the faithful Israelite women were longing for: Messiah, the savior of the world to be born from their own generation.
   On Sunday before Christmas, we always hear during the Gospel reading, the names of Christ’s blessed forefathers. Among them, we also hear Ruth’s name who entered God’s people because of her great faith.

Christmas Gift

   Even though Ruth had been raised believing in idols, when she met real God, she believed Him and loved Him with all of her heart. What if everyone else was bowing in front of fake gods? She didn’t have any doubt: He was the real God! And she was so happy she met him! That’s why she followed Naomi to Bethlehem. She longed to live among real God’s people. What if she should leave her own people and go away? There was only one thing she cared about: Not to lose the true God! And not only did she not lose Him, but she became His relative!
   And all of us, children, if we have Ruth's faith and love, we will be God's relatives! That's why he came on earth as a God-man to make us His children (see Gal 4:4-7). This is the great gift of Christmas: Christ was born humbly in a stable. The shepherds worshipped a weak infant, so that we, the weak and sinful people, may become God’s children!
And this year, let us all worship in gratitude Christ who is being born. Let us worship Him with Ruth’s love and faith. Where shall we find Him? In the Church, in every Orthodox church. He is waiting for us to approach Him and with a pure heart to receive the Holy Communion. In this way we receive Him into our hearts and make our hearts His manger! May Jesus Christ be our God and may we worship Him as Ruth, in our whole life!