The Nativity of Christ
"For to you is born this day…a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." (Luke 2:11-12)
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 Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America,
My Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I greet you on the joyous occasion of the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, an event of cosmic proportions that marked the very entry of salvation into our world. The significance of this event rests in the awesome truth that our God, in His perfect love for us, chose to enter our world not as an adult clothed with earthly authority, but as "a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger". It is truly incredible to contemplate such a tender and humble image in view of the incomprehensible might and majesty of God.
This act of Divine condescension suggests the bestowal of a tremendous dignity upon humankind. This dignity reveals itself most directly in the awesome duty of care that God placed upon the most Holy Theotokos and Virgin Mary and upon Joseph in caring for His only-begotten Son, the newborn Messiah. We must remember that Jesus, in his human infancy, was dependent upon Mary and Joseph for the basic necessities of food, shelter, and clothing. Here, we behold but a glimpse of the limitless nature of God’s love for humanity. By becoming a human being from the moment of infancy, God revealed His desire to partake in the entirety of the human experience, beginning with a humble birth and proceeding even unto death on a Cross, so that we in turn might enjoy an everlasting life with Him.
Viewed from this perspective, God’s entry into our world as "a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger" was an indicative sign with wider implications: In an age where many looked toward emperors and kings for their security, God deigned to herald the salvation of humanity with the birth, under humbling conditions, of an infant. This was no accident; rather, it was an act with a declaratory significance. Beyond the importance of these humbling conditions, the appearance of God in the world as a babe, as a child, strongly affirmed the centrality of the child in God’s plan for the salvation of the human race. This affirmation is fundamentally important in our modern age, particularly in view of social conditions within our world that compromise the supreme value of children and their inalienable right to be nurtured within the security of a family and to live in dignity as God intended.
Brothers and Sisters,
This year it is fitting that we place special emphasis upon the vital role and care of children and their families during our celebration of Christmas, for we will be inaugurating as an Archdiocese in 2005 the Year of the Family, a period of intensified ministry to families across America. Our principle aims for this year will be to enhance the spiritual lives of families, to grow in our appreciation of Greek Orthodox families in America as we minister to their particular needs, and to make available to families more and more resources that communicate the abiding presence of Christ and His Church. What beautiful and worthy aims for us to consider this year during this glorious Feast of the Nativity, which embodies the true essence and potential of family like no other holiday!
Therefore, as we celebrate this blessed occasion, let us do so as loving and caring families. Let us come together in prayer and worship of the Almighty God, Who entered our world as an infant for our salvation. As we gather in fellowship with one another this holiday season, let us particularly reflect upon the fact of the Incarnate God lying in a manger as a babe, thus establishing forever the paramount importance of children as precious members of our families.
I offer to you my fervent wishes that the joy of this Christmas season fills your hearts, your homes, your families, and your parishes and that the very same joy may accompany you throughout the dawning New Year. The Prince of Peace has come as a child; and He has promised to be with us all the days, to the end of time, even to the end of the world (Matthew 28:20).
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America