My Beloved, the Blessed Children of the Holy Church;
On this great joyous occasion of the Feast of the Nativity, it is my pleasure to wish you all the blessings of the Mystery of the Incarnation. Our celebration of the Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ is a celebration of the wondrous Mystery of the Incarnation, which reveals God’s love for us. He accepted to come to our world and take a complete human nature with rational soul, as St John the Theologian wrote, “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)
The main purpose of the Incarnation is our salvation from the dominion of sin, death, and corruption. This is revealed when the Archangel proclaimed that the name of the Child is to be “Jesus”, which means “Saviour.” In the Annunciation of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, Archangel Gabriel told the Holy Virgin the Mother of Light, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus”. Again, the Archangel appeared to Joseph and revealed to him the mystery of the Holy Conception; he told him, “Do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt 1:20-21). Thus, God’s goal to save us from the dominion of sin, death, and corruption was achieved through the Incarnation.
God is compassionate and merciful; He forgives sins and iniquities. If the problem was only the forgiveness of sins, then the Incarnation would not have been essential. But the problem was much deeper! The fall of the first man Adam led the entire human race to fall under the dominion of sin, death, and corruption. In his fallen condition, man was incapable of becoming righteous by his deeds. Also, the Law was unable to make man righteous. Thus, the human race needed deliverance through a Saviour and Redeemer, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed” (Rom 3:23-25). Through God’s mercy and the redeeming act of Christ by dying on the Cross on our behalf, salvation was achieved for all mankind, and we were granted freedom from the dominion of sin, death, and corruption. Clearly, what the Law could not do, “God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom 8:3).
In the Letter to Hebrews, St Paul explained the meaning of “condemning sin in the flesh” and wrote, “Now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb 9:26). Christ put away sin by offering Himself as a sacrifice, and presented to the Father full human obedience when “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil 2:8).
In the beginning, God told Adam “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen 2:17). Yet, Adam disobeyed, and the consequence of his rebellion was death, which was not limited only to himself, but extended to the entire human race, because “as in Adam all die” (1 Cor 15:22). However, everything changed through the obedience of the Second Adam, Who defeated death by death and granted life to the human race. St Paul explained that, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22). Furthermore, he wrote that the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross abolished sin and the sting of death, because “Death is swallowed up in victory. ‘O Death where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin.” (1 Cor 15: 54-56)
We have to always remember that God has granted us freedom through the Incarnation and death on the Cross of His Only Begotten Son. We are called to lead a life free from sin and not according to the flesh, but rather led by the Spirit. St Paul reinforces, “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom 8:12-13). Additionally, he encourages to, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal 5:16).
Today, we rejoice because the wondrous Incarnation of God the Word reveals God’s love for us. Therefore, we ought to “Love Him because He first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19). Furthermore, God’s love for us compels us to love one another in a practical way through our actions. St John reminds us, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 Jn 4:11), and “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn 3:18).
We celebrate Christmas this year amidst worldwide problems, especially economic hardships. Many families, especially those with limited income, face the burden of the rising inflation and increase in the prices of the basic needs and commodities. We pray that God may provide for everyone from His abundant riches and save the world from wars and inflation. However, we also are required to remember our needy brothers and sisters and actively participate in benevolent works, remembering St Paul’s words, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:9-10).
Let us pray for the Holy Church and for worldwide peace.
Let us pray for our beloved father and shepherd, H.H. Pope Tawadros II, as well as all the metropolitans, bishops, clergy, and all the people.
Let us pray for the souls of all our beloved, who have preceded us to Paradise, and with them the souls of our beloved Fr John Mikhail and our beloved Fr Estephanous Hanna. May our Lord repose their righteous souls in the Paradise of Joy and grant to their families and beloved ones His peace, which surpasses all understanding, and give them the joy of His Incarnation and Holy Nativity.
Wishing you many happy returns.
His Eminence Metropolitan Serapion is Metropolitan of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles (www.lacopts.org).
7 January 2023