Protocol Number 173/12
December 25, 2012
The Nativity of Christ
When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman…. (Galatians 4:4)
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,
Our celebration of the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is filled with joyful proclamations of the fulfillment of His promises for redemption and new life. “Today the Virgin gives birth to Him who is above all being.” “Today God has come upon the earth, and man gone up to heaven.” “Today He who knows no beginning now begins to be, and the Word is made flesh.” These words from the hymns of the feast affirm the magnitude of the events in Bethlehem on that day. They also nurture within our hearts the joy, assurance and hope that are offered through the One who became incarnate.
The joy of the Feast of the Nativity is known and experienced through the revelation of God’s divine plan for the salvation of humankind. This deep and fulfilling joy was expressed by the Virgin Mary when she praised God for being chosen to be the mother of Christ: My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior (Luke 1:46). When the angel appeared to the shepherds announcing the birth of Jesus he proclaimed, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11). We also have received this revelation through the message of the Gospel and through our experience of the presence of Christ in our midst. On this glorious feast our hearts are filled with ineffable joy.
This great joy we share in celebrating the Nativity of our Lord also strengthens our faith in the promises of God. The witness of the Incarnation is that God is faithful and true. The fulfillment of His promises of redemption were affirmed by Zacharias, the father of Saint John the Baptist, when he proclaimed, “For God has visited and redeemed His people…as He spoke by the mouth of His holy Prophets (Luke 1:68, 70). In his Gospel, Saint Matthew wrote, So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the Prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel (Matthew 1:22-23; Isaiah 7:14). And in the hymns of this Nativity season we sing, “The revelation of Christ is now made manifest: the preachings of the Prophets have received their fulfillment. The holy sayings of the Prophets have been fulfilled in the city of Bethlehem within a cave” (Vespers and Matins of the Forefeast). On this day all that had been promised by God, all that had been foretold for our salvation, was fulfilled in the birth of Christ.
The joy and assurance that we have in our communion with God on this holy feast engenders within our hearts an enduring hope. Our joy in the fulfillment of His divine plan for our salvation and our assurance through our faith in the truth of the Gospel, give us a firm hope in His promises of eternal life, for the complete restoration of our fellowship with Him, and for the fulfillment of all things. This is a feast of hope because through it we see all that has been accomplished, and we are given a glimpse of what is to come. This Feast of the Nativity of our Lord affirms for each one of us that we can have hope and joy in any of the circumstances and conditions of life—hope in the transformation of our lives through faith and hope in the power of God’s love.
On this blessed and holy feast, I offer to each of you my best wishes for a joyful season of worship and fellowship. May your hearts be filled with assurance, joy and hope, and may the peace and mercy of our Lord be with you in the new year.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America