My Beloved, the Blessed Children of the Holy Church,
It is my pleasure to wish all of you a blessed Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, God, and Saviour Jesus Christ. We rejoice in the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, because He has manifested to us the mystery of God’s humility and love, and He constantly seeks our salvation. St Paul the Apostle explained that the Word, the Son of God, 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. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil 2: 6-8). This describes to us the amazing divine love, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
When we joyfully come to worship the Babe of Bethlehem, let us remember that we are worshipping our Lord, Who emptied Himself and accepted to take our human nature. He came to our world, and lived amongst us, so He can save us, for “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” (John 1:14) We, who were sitting in the darkness and the shadow of death, He shone upon us with His light, as it is written, The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned” (Matt 4:16).
The mystery of the Incarnation is the mystery of God’s wondrous humility. As Satan enticed man to fall through pride and disobedience, Christ saved us through His humility and obedience unto death on the cross.
- Our joy in the birth of Christ is fulfilled, when we live with humility. This is why St Paul exhorted the Philippians, as well as, all of us and said, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5).
- When we have “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16), we will have one mind and will fulfil what St Paul said, “being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil 2:2-4).
- We rejoice in the birth of Christ, because He came to grant us a new life, as St Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). Additionally, he said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal 2:20). This new life is characterised by holiness, because “as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Pet 1:15).
- We live this new life, not for ourselves, but for Christ’s sake, because, “He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Cor 5:15) The goal of this new life is to glorify God, “For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor 6: 20).
- It is a new life that liberates us from slavery to other people, as St Paul wrote, “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men” (1 Cor 7:23).
- It is a new life that liberates us from slavery to sin, since “whoever commits sin is a slave of sin… Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8: 34, 36).
- We live this new life on earth, but our goal is heaven, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:20).
- The birth of Christ grants us joy in the midst of our spiritual struggle, because Christ has given us salvation and has opened to us the door of Paradise. Thus, we should act according to the divine calling, as St Paul said, “Let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil 1:27), and “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). St Paul sets an example for us by saying, “I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14). Furthermore, he assures us that we are not alone in our struggle, because, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13).
Let us all rejoice in the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, The Babe of Bethlehem, Who emptied Himself for our salvation, granted us the life of holiness and true freedom, and leads us in His triumphal procession.
Let us pray for the peace of the Holy Church and for our beloved Father, H.H. Pope Tawadros II.
Let us pray for every struggling and suffering soul so that the Babe of Bethlehem may shine upon her with the light of victory and eternal joy.
Let us pray for the families of our Martyrs of Minya and St Samuel Monastery that the Lord may grant them peace and comfort. We, also, pray for the full and speedy recovery of all the wounded ones.
Let us rejoice, because the Lord is near. May the peace of Emmanuel shine in our hearts and preserve our thoughts in Him.
Wishing you many happy returns.
His Eminence Metropolitan Serapion is Metropolitan of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles (www.lacopts.org)
7 January 2018