Protocol 101/08

December 25, 2008
The Nativity of Christ

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
Full of grace and truth;
(John 1:14)

To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On this most joyous day, our Holy Orthodox Church celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ and the fundamentally life-affirming and awesome consequences that flowed from this miraculous event. The birth of Jesus Christ was nothing less than the entry of salvation into our world. It was at that singular defining moment in history, a moment of cosmic significance, that God the Word became a human being in the person of Jesus Christ, and began to dwell among us. This is what is meant by the above-cited passage from the Gospel of John, And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

That the Almighty God freely chose to become a human being, in every manner like us except for sin, is a concept that is unique and central to our Christian faith. It is, in fact, a quite radical concept: because God became a human being, we have been offered the ability to appreciate anew the exalted status of what it means to be a true human being. Equally radical was the divine and saving plan behind the manner by which God chose to enter our world and our human condition. Even though it was within His power, our God did not enter our world clothed as an earthly monarch seeking to acquire worldly dominion and control over those who might be called subjects. Rather, He came as the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), Whose desire was to restore all human beings to a relationship with God permanently bonded by love, to herald the coming of a heavenly Kingdom, and to loose all human beings from the bonds of death. And this is what is meant by those familiar and beautiful words of Saint John, the Evangelist, which we truly take to heart on this most magnificent day: For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

My beloved Christians,

These words are especially important on this day of Christmas since we are living at a time when in our world we are experiencing heavy levels of anxiety due to many ordeals. Some of these ordeals include the present state of our global economy, the rising of unemployment, the problems related to the use of energy, the health of our environment, and the continuing presence of terrorism and civil unrest. In the face of such tremendous stress, we take comfort that our loving and Almighty God Himself took on all kinds of ordeals. Indeed, the newborn Christ took on all the evils, sins, and pains of the entire humanity, and He transformed these ordeals into hope, strength, peace and resurrection. Therefore, even in the midst of difficulty, we experience the joy of hope and love that we spread abundantly to others.

On this day I extend to all of you my fervent prayers that the divine light of our Incarnate God and Savior Jesus Christ, Who is born to us on this day, may shine forever in your hearts and homes as a brilliant beacon of hope, joy, and love throughout this Christmas season, and indeed on every day of this New Year 2009 now at hand; and may His infinite mercy, protection, and peace be with you always.

With paternal love in Christ,

Archbishop of America