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Festal Letter for the Glorious Feast of the Nativity 2006

My Beloved, the Blessed Children of the Christ-Loving Diocese of Los Angeles,

Christ is born, glorify Him. Christ from heaven,

Go out to meet Him. Christ on earth, exalt Him

This is how St. Gregory the Theologian began his sermon for the Feast of the Nativity in 380 A.D. He further elaborated on the true meaning of the Nativity (Christmas) celebrations by saying, “We are celebrating today the coming of God to man that we might go forth, or rather (for this is the more proper expression) that we might go back to God – that putting off the old man, we might put on the New, and that as we died in Adam, so we might live in Christ.”

Today, our celebration of the coming of God to us becomes complete when we go back to God. Our Lord Jesus Christ identified the mission of His Incarnation by saying, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Lk. 19:10) But what is it that was lost for which Christ, the Son of Man has come to seek and save? Isn’t it man, who was lost after he was separated from God, the source of Life?

God created man in His image (Gen. 1:27), gave him life (Gen. 2:7), and gave him dominion over all living things (Gen. 1:28). He placed him in the Garden of Eden and gave him the commandment to preserve him in a life of holiness and purity. Moreover, man was able to converse with God, and they had a good relationship based on love. In this condition, man was God’s friend; he enjoyed seeing Him and receiving knowledge directly from God. However, this relationship changed as a result of sin, which separated man from God and turned him into a stranger. Once man formed a relationship with Satan and obeyed him by not keeping God’s commandment, he severed his fellowship with God. No longer was God the only source of knowledge for man, because the comprehension of evil entered into man’s mind, and along with it came the passions, which corrupted his heart. Therefore, when he looked at the tree, he saw it differently for he saw that it was good for food and pleasant to the eyes (Gen. 3:6). As a result of separating himself from God, Who is the Truth and Life (Jn. 14:6), man fell under the dominion of death, just as God warned him, “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Moreover, man lost his power and became a slave to Satan, who led him from one sin to another. Fear entered man’s heart, and he began to fear God, as Adam said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked and I hid myself.” (Gen. 3:10) He also started to fear his brother, as Cain said, “and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.” (Gen. 4:14) He also started to fear the wild animals and nature since the ground was cursed as a result of sin. His relationship with everyone and everything became one of tension and conflict, as God told him, “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.”(Gen. 3:17) Consequently, by detaching himself from the source of his power, dominion, and peace, man lost authority over nature and the living beings. Furthermore, as a result of being exiled from the garden, which is actually being banished from God’s presence, man became separated from the true Light and began to walk in darkness. He was also prevented from eating from the Tree of Life, which is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

+ Man left God and separated himself from Him, but God did not leave man. In His love, God sought man, always trying to return him to Himself. He talked to man through the patriarchs and the prophets, as well as through the natural law imprinted in the conscience (Rom. 1:20). Yet, man remained incapable of returning to God. Why? Because, “they have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable. There is none who does good, no not one.”(Rom. 3:12)

Indeed, how can the lost sheep return to its master? Or the lost coin to its owner? Even with the prodigal son, we see that “when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and has compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” (Lk. 15:20) God had compassion on man, because of man’s incapacity. Therefore, in order to save the lost humanity, He came and took a complete human nature “But God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) Christ came to us, so we may return to Him, live a new life, become partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4), and have communion with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14).

But how do we return to God?

We return to God by repentance, “Repent therefore and be converted that your sins may be blotted out.” (Act 3:19)

We return to God with all our hearts “Turn to Me with all your heart.” (Joel 2:12)

+ Today, modern man faces many challenges, because Satan uses all the power of his weapons of darkness to keep man in fear, terror, misery, and defilement in order to keep him living in darkness and away from God.

+ Today, a light has shone, as the angel tells us, “Do not be afraid, for 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.” (Lk. 2:10-11) He is “the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.” (Jn. 1:9)

Let us come out to receive the true Light.

Let us come out and leave our egos to enjoy the light of sacrifice and giving.

Let us come out and repent, leaving our sins, so we may enjoy the light of a pure and holy life.

Let us come out, leaving behind the ignorance and lust of the world, so we may enjoy the light of the true Wisdom.

Christ is born; let us glorify Him in our lives, in our bodies, and in our spirits, which all belong to God.

May our Lord grant us a blessed and joyous feast and may He keep His Church in peace and keep for us the life of our beloved father, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III.

Wishing you many joyous returns.

Bishop Serapion


Posted by Fr. Moses Samaan

January 9, 2006