The Nativity of Christ
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 and Afternoon 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, a miraculous event which took place two millennia ago, imparting an indelible effect upon our human race and upon all creation. For on that holy and magnificent day in Bethlehem, God in His perfect love for us condescended to take on human flesh; the Virgin Mary gave birth to the Incarnate Logos; and the entry of salvation into our world was revealed in the fullness of time unto all humanity.
The birth of Christ,foretold for centuries by the prophets, was an event of cosmic significance, impacting peoples of all lands and civilizations and affecting the order and future of all things seen and unseen. Thus, this was no ordinary birth. The Creator of the Universe entered the visible world through the womb of the Virgin. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords took on flesh, beginning His life among us in an astonishingly humble way.
We must wonder at this humble beginning of our Lord. In all His power and glory, He entered the human race at the weakest and most vulnerable stage of life. He was born under inhospitable conditions, in a stable surrounded by animals, away from the comfort of a home and family. Further, early in His life He became a refugee, taken by His mother and Joseph to Egypt, a land of exile.
Indeed, the manner in which Christ became man reveals much to us about the tremendous power and love of God. He was not afraid to appear on earth under the most humiliating conditions being “despised and rejected by others, a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity” (Isaiah 53:3). Into the midst of a threatening, chaotic world He came in full control of His divine plan for our salvation. He would be “wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5) but through the glorious power of His Resurrection He would lead us from death to life.
Our contemporary world is no less threatening. We may have the advantages of modern technology, high standards of living, and the benefits of a free society. However, as we continue to witness day after day, we live in a world tormented by terrorism and war, plagued by famine and disease, and infected with sin that destroys relationships and lives. But we can find strength in knowing that the one, who was in control of time and history as He entered this world as an infant, is the one who controls the destiny of our lives. In the worst of conditions, we do not have a God “who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). This is Jesus, the Son of God, who came to be with us, and in our frailty, struggles, and even in death itself, reveal to us the power from above that is offered to those who believe.
Through the celebration of this great and glorious Feast of our Church may God empower us in faith and hope to face the challenges of our world. In this season of the Nativity may our witness to the Incarnation of Christ offer the truth of life and salvation to all; and may the peace, joy, and presence of our Lord be with all of you, especially in the dawning New Year. Have a joyous Christmas and a blessed 2003.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America