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Festal Letter for the Feast of the Nativity 2012

My Beloved, the Blessed Children of the Holy Church,

It is my pleasure to wish you a Blessed Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ and a joyous New Year.

This past year was deeply tinted with the blood of our martyrs in Alexandria, Al-Muquattam, and Maspero. We lived through the harsh events in Egypt and America.  In Egypt, the Church offered tens of pure martyrs and hundreds of confessors as victims of the religious bigotry and violence.  Some churches were destroyed and many of our brothers and sisters endured physical and emotional aggression.

Additionally, along with their Egyptian brothers and sisters, they are enduring the loss of security, economic collapse, and political chaos, which Egypt is currently suffering. Our beloved Egypt is now going through a dark tunnel.  Some see light at the end of the tunnel.  But no one can determine whether this light means the end of the tunnel or it is the light of the on-coming train in the opposite direction to destroy everything. As for us in America, we share in the suffering of our beloved in Egypt. Additionally, we suffer from the troubled economy and the political failure to manage this nation, which leads many to wander about the future of this great country.

In the midst of all these difficult events, the Feast of the Nativity carries for us a message of comfort and joy, which is “God with us”, If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:30).  In the midst of the darkness of these events, our Good Lord shines upon us with the light of His wondrous birth.  As the shepherds were keeping watch over their flock in the darkness of the night, “Behold an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.  Then the angel said to them, ‘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. 2:9-11)

Our Living Christ shines upon us with the light of His birth and tells us, “It is I; do not be afraid.” (Jn. 6:20) ; “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28: 20)  No matter how profound the darkness surrounding us is, we don’t fear for Isaiah the Prophet prophesied, “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”  (Matt. 4:16). It is the light of our Lord Christ, who said, “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.” (Jn. 12:46)

My Beloved,

The Gospel of St. Matthew reminds us of the prophecy of Isaiah the Prophet, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us’” (Matt. 1:23)  Regarding the goal of this prophecy, St. Cyril of Alexandria said, “the goal is that truly He is like us and that He sanctified our nature.”

  • God with us, but are we with
    Him?  God became like us, but have we
    become like Him?  He has come to us, but
    have we returned to Him?  Indeed, St.
    Gregory the Theologian said, “Christ is
    born, glorify Him. Christ from heaven, go out to meet Him.  Christ on earth, exalt Him.” 
  • God with us, so how can we be
    afraid?  From whom are we afraid?  David the Prophet in the Psalm of the
    Shepherd said, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want….Yea, though I walk through
    the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me.”

    (Ps. 22)
  • God with us, for He grants us
    His peace, which surpasses all understanding, and He is the One saying, “Peace
    I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to
    you.  Let not your heart be troubled,
    neither let it be afraid.”
  • God with us, and He calls us to
    abide in Him, saying, “I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much
    fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
    (Jn. 15:5)
  • God with us. So, we should not be
    surprised at the world’s hatred for us, since this is the sign that we belong
    to Christ and not to the world, as our Lord told us, “If the world hates you, you know
    that it hated Me before it hated you.  If
    you were of the world, the world would love its own.  Yet because you are not of the world, but I
    chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
      (Jn. 15: 18-19)
  • God with us, so we should not
    fear the world’s persecution to us, since Christ previously informed us and
    said, “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to
    stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that
    whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.”
    (Jn. 16: 1-2)  He gave us a true promise, “These
    things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation, but
    be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
      (Jn. 16:33)
  • God with us, so we should not
    weaken when facing temptations, “For in that He Himself has suffered, being
    tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”
    (Heb. 2:18)
  • God with us, so we should feel
    confident and secure, saying with David the Prophet, “He who dwells in the help of the
    Most High shall lodge in the shelter of the God of heaven.  He shall say to the Lord, ‘ You are my
    protector and my refuge, my God; I will hope in Him; for He shall free me from
    the snare of the hunters, and from every troubling word.”
    (Ps. 90)

Let us pray for the peace of the Holy Church, for our beloved father, H.H. Pope Shenouda III, and for every suffering and troubled soul, so our Lord may grant us to live a peaceful and tranquil life in all godliness and purity.

Wishing you many happy returns.
Bishop Serapion

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Posted by Fr. Moses Samaan

January 7, 2012