December 25, the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, is one of the holiest days of the year. On this day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Holy One of God. In our hymns we acknowledge the sanctity of this great event, a moment in time and history when heaven and earth were united, when light shone in the darkness, when the pre-eternal God became a newborn child. Christ entered fully into our humanity, so that through His incarnation, death, and resurrection, our lives could be restored to holiness. Through faith in Him we could know and experience a level of living and being that reveals an inner communion with God and His transforming presence that sanctifies our minds, hearts and bodies.
God created us to be holy as He is holy. He calls us to live holy lives; and the life of holiness has always been a part of His divine plan for our salvation. In His covenant with the Israelites, He called them out from the nations of the world to be a holy witness of the truth "For I am the Lord your God, sanctify yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am holy" (Leviticus 11:44). Through following the divine commandments, they would reveal to the world the goodness, righteousness, holiness, and love of the one, true God.
The significance of holiness in our relationship with God was also affirmed in the incarnation of our Lord. Prior to His birth, Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, prophesied concerning the coming of Christ, "God has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered His holy covenant - that we might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness all the days of our lives" (Luke 1:72-73).
In the person of Jesus Christ the holiness of God dispelled the darkness of deceptions and falsehoods with the light of truth that offered hope and peace. In the midst of spiritual blindness and ignorance, our Lord brought the knowledge of salvation to all humankind. By sharing in our humanity He has shown us that through grace and faith we can be the holy people God created us to be.
It is this witness of holiness that is so needed in our world today. People are becoming more and more disconnected with the truth of God. Many are conforming their lives and aspirations to desires that are rooted in ignorance of who Christ is, what He has done for us, and what we can become through Him. They cannot hear the call to live holy lives in the midst of so many distortions of truth, misconceptions, vain ideas, and meaningless entertainments. They need to be shown the way to life and salvation They need to find truth and the knowledge of the grace of God that will transform their lives and fill their hearts and minds with peace.
As Orthodox Christians and people of genuine faith, you are called by God to offer a witness of holiness. You are exhorted to "present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God," to not be conformed to the world, "but to be transformed by the renewing of your minds," so that you may know the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:1-2). As the presence of Christ transforms your lives, you will be living in holiness; and your hearts and minds will be filled with the truth. Further, the sanctity of your life, words, actions, worship, and faith will guide others into holiness, truth and eternal life.
As you celebrate the Holy Nativity of our Lord, and Savior Jesus Christ, may you also contemplate the holiness of His glorious incarnation and its significance for your lives. The sanctity of His birth led the angels to rejoice, amazed the shepherds and the people of Bethlehem, and guided the wise men from distant lands to worship Him. You do not know how many people will find Christ and will know truth and the way to salvation through the holiness of your life. On this great feast of the Church and on each and every day of your life may you offer yourselves in the service of our Holy God, and may you commit yourselves to living in holiness.
May you have a blessed Feast of the Nativity and a joyous and healthy New Year.
Archbishop of America