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Festal Letter for the Feast of the Nativity 2008

My Beloved, the Blessed Children of the Holy Church,

It is my pleasure to wish you a Blessed Feast of the Nativity. Today, let us rejoice as we hear the angel’s good tidings to the shepherds, “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. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” (Lk. 2:10-12)

We are rejoicing, because the One born is not just a human being, but is Christ, the Savior of the whole world. He is Emmanuel, meaning God is with us. With their human eyes, the shepherds saw a Baby lying in a manger, but with the eyes of hope, they saw Him as the Savior of the whole world, and they rejoiced. Also, when the angels saw the Divine Baby in His glory, they praised Him saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” (Lk. 2:14) St. Cyril of Alexandria said, “Some one may object to this, ‘that He Who was now born was still a child, and wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger: how then did the powers above praise Him as God?’ Against such our argument stands firm. Understand, O man, the depth of the mystery! God was in visible form like us: the Lord of all in the likeness of a slave, albeit the glory of lordship is inseparable from Him. Understand that the Only-begotten was made flesh; that He endured to be born of a woman for our sakes, to put away the curse pronounced upon the first woman.” Then St. Cyril exhorts us saying, “When, therefore, you see the child wrapped in swaddling clothes, let not your thought be only upon His birth in the flesh, but mount up to the contemplation of His godlike glory, elevate your mind aloft, ascend to heaven, so you will behold Him in the highest exaltation, possessed of transcendent glory; you will see Him set upon a throne high and lifted up (Is. 6:1); you will hear the Seraphim extolling Him in hymns, and saying that heaven and earth are full of His glory.”

With the eyes of hope, the three wise men saw the Child as the heavenly King. Therefore, they came and worshipped Him, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. As for Herod, whose hope was in the world, when he heard of His birth, “he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” (Matt. 2:3)

Today, we rejoice in the birth of Christ, because as St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” (Rom. 8:24-25) Our Lord Jesus Christ is our hope and the source of our joy, despite all the tribulations and sufferings that surround us. Christ is our hope in truly knowing God, therefore we are glad and no one can take away our joy. St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, saying, “that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Eph. 2:12)

Having no hope and without God in the world. Indeed, how can one have hope without God? Prior to Christ, didn’t the Ephesians worship different gods? Aren’t there still many gods? Some see nature as a deity and worship the fire and have a god for the earth and another for the sea. Others see chance as a creating power. Still others see man as a god for himself, leading him to worship himself and think that he is the master of his destiny. Others worship evil spirits. Truly, St. Paul the Apostle wrote in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, “For even if there are so called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.” (1 Cor. 8:5-6)

St. George the New Martyr, who lived and was martyred in the 10th century, was born to a Christian mother and non-Christian father. Everything surrounding him was leading him away from the knowledge of the true God. But when he tasted the sweetness of the “Ologia” (the holy bread), he placed his hope in the invisible and wished to become a Christian. He persevered struggling patiently and lived what St. Paul wrote, “But if we hope for what we do not seek, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” ((Rom 8:25) He endured with joy many sufferings, because he was rejoicing in hope. Therefore, for him St. Paul’s words were fulfilled, “For we were saved in this hope.” (Rom. 8:24)

Let us rejoice in hope, praying with St. Paul the Apostle, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13)

Let us pray for the peace of the Holy Church and for our beloved father, H.H. Pope Shenouda III, that God may grant him health and keep him for us for many peaceful years.

Wishing you many happy returns.
Bishop Serapion


Posted by Fr. Moses Samaan

January 7, 2008