It is my pleasure to wish you a very joyous and blessed Nativity Feast. The nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ is a special time of immense, cheerful, and devout celebration. It is embodied in expectancy, hope, and deliverance. The world expected a Saviour, hoped for peace, and yearned for deliverance. The prophets and patriarchs of the Holy Scripture encouraged the believers to expect the Messiah. They lived and died in the hope of the joy of His incarnation. Satan tried to deter our exultation by the evils of Herod and the inns that refused to welcome Him. Thus, on this glorious feast, we joyfully welcome the Lord Jesus Christ into our hearts, our lives, our homes, our gatherings, and into all that we are and have and do.
From the annunciation of the forerunner until the nativity of Christ, the Church chants joyful tunes and praises. The four Sundays preceding the birth of Christ are all read from the Holy Gospel according to St Luke: The Annunciation of the Birth of St John the Baptist—the Forerunner (Luke 1:1–25); The Annunciation of the Birth of Christ the Saviour (Luke: 1:26–38); The Visitation of St Mary to St Elizabeth (Luke 1:39–56); The Birth of St John the Baptist (Luke 1:57–80). Throughout the blessed advent season, the liturgy responses are all joyful and conclude with, Alleluia!
The expectancy of the first week of the advent month defined the character and message of the forerunner who would prepare the way for the Messiah. This was the beginning of the path of deliverance away from Satan’s clutches and into God’s loving arms. Thus, Archangel Gabriel joyfully proclaimed: “He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17).
Archangel Gabriel’s annunciation of the nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ to the Virgin Mary was immediately accepted by her. Though troubled by his salutation, she did not hesitate to commit and submit to God’s will. The expectant mother brought us hope for salvation and deliverance. “Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:38).
The Blessed Mother’s visit to St. Elizabeth provides a unique meeting, the only one of this kind, between two infants, Jesus Christ and His relative, John the Baptist. The Holy Spirit guided the words of John’s mother as the first to proclaim the theological truth that Mary is the Mother of God, Theotokos: “But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43).
A period of time had elapsed since Archangel Gabriel had muted Zacharias the priest for questioning the birth of St. John and these glad tidings. Hope marked the end of silence between heaven and earth. The beginning of the deliverance according to the prophecies were fulfilled. With expectancy, the people marveled at Zacharias’s silence though they did not understand. With hope, they anticipated something great. Finally, Zacharias revealed the role his son, John, would have in God’s plan for our deliverance, and joyfully declared: “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people” (Luke 1:68).
We journey with the Church throughout all the significant fasts and feasts, and experience each season and event, spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Our senses are filled with joy as we live each moment of Christ’s life on earth through the Divine Liturgies. Rejoice each time you hear the priest praying in the Litany of the Gospel: “Many prophets and righteous men have desired to see the things which you see, and have not seen them, and to hear the things which you hear, and have not heard them, but blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.” This exceeding joy began with the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, learn from the shepherds on that holy night, and do as they did as you exit the Church after the Nativity Feast Liturgy, and every Church feast, and every Divine Liturgy, and every time you attend Church services: “Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them” (Luke 1:20).
May the joy of the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ enliven all your senses and saturate your hearts with His goodness, peace, and hope.
Glory to the Holy Trinity. Amen.
God bless you.
His Grace Bishop Youssef is Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States (www.suscopts.org)
7 January 2020