My Beloved, the Blessed Children of the Holy Church,
Christ is born, let us glorify Him
Christ is from heaven, let us go and meet Him
Christ on earth, let us exalt Him
It is my pleasure to wish all of you a blessed Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, God, and Saviour, Jesus Christ, Who came for our salvation. We celebrate God’s wondrous love for us, since He made Himself of no reputation in order to lift us up to Himself.
As we celebrate the mystery of the magnificent Incarnation, we are celebrating the mystery of how Christ amazingly emptied Himself, as St. Paul the Apostle said, Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. (Phil 2: 5-7). Before He became the Son of Man, He was the Son of God, one in essence with the Father, And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (Jn 1: 14) Christ, Who is rich in His divine glory, accepted to be poor for our sake and took our limited and lowly human nature. That is why St. Paul the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9)
When we behold the icon of the glorious Nativity, we find a poor Child born to a poor family in a humble place. By worldly measures, the Holy Theotokos was a poor woman. She was orphaned at a very young age and later St Joseph the Carpenter took care of her. When the days came for her to give birth, there was no room for her in the inn. St Luke the Evangelist wrote, And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Lk 2: 7) This poor Child is the Divine Child, Who is rich in His divine glory, and that is why the angels appeared and praised God saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men! (Lk 2: 14). Also, the Wise Men came from the East to worship and offer Him gifts, And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matt 2: 11). The icon of the Nativity is an extraordinary icon expressing wealth and poverty, the glory of the divinity and the humility of the humanity; the shepherds and the wise men; the external simplicity and the inner greatness.
Let us look beyond the icon of the Nativity to our present situation. Our Christ, Who became poor for our sake, wants us to see Him in the person of our needy brothers and sisters, and when we care for them, He grants us the heavenly wealth. When St. Paul the Apostle addressed the Corinthians regarding the collection for the poor in Jerusalem, he wanted to lift their eyes to the model of Christ, Who became poor although He is rich. He did not concentrate on the sufferings of the poor in Jerusalem, but wanted them to see Christ in the person of the needy people in Jerusalem.
When our Lord Jesus Christ talked about the Last Judgment, He considered the acts of mercy done to the needy as if they were done to Him personally, Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me. (Matt 25: 40)
When St Serapion saw a naked poor person, he said, “Truly, this is Christ, and is suffering from the cold”. That was why he took off his coat and gave it to that needy person.
I invite you to look at the Icon of the Divine Baby in the Manger and see Him in:
The children of the struggling families, who immigrated and came seeking a better life for their children
The children of the needy families in Egypt, so that we no longer hear of a child stealing to eat a loaf of bread or children living on the streets because they are homeless.
The children of the families who left their homes because of war in Iraq, Syria, or other places and are facing the severity of the winter cold.
The children whose families can’t care for them, because of poverty and give them to orphanages to raise them.
The children who suffer emotionally because of the breakdown of their families and live part of the time with the mother and part with the father.
The children whose pictures are used by some non-profit organisations in order to collect money at the expense of their human dignity.
The greatest gift we can offer the Divine Baby of Bethlehem is to care for every suffering and needy child, when we see Him in these children and love, serve, and respect their human dignity, because they are the image of the Divine Baby of the manger.
Let us pray for the peace of the One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
Let us pray for our beloved father, H.H. Pope Tawadros II.
Let us pray that God may grant us grace and power to serve our Beloved Christ in every needy person, so that none among us is deprived.
Wishing you many happy returns.
His Grace Bishop Serapion is Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles (www.lacopts.org)
7 January 2015