December 25, 2007
The Nativity of Christ
What shall we offer You, O Christ,
Who for our sakes has appeared on earth as a man?
(From the Vespers of the Nativity)
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On this glorious day of the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ we celebrate the truly historical, universal, and eternal event of His Incarnation. It is historical, for at the divinely appointed time He entered our human history by being conceived and formed in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and was born of her in a cave in Bethlehem. It is universal because the Son of God, the divine Logos of Creation, took upon himself human flesh and blood so that He might redeem us and all of the universe from the burden of sin and death. His Incarnation and birth has eternal significance because through His life, we are offered life, not just a mortal and earthly life, but unending life. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). The gift of the Lord and the gift of life are the greatest offerings presented to humankind. God the Father gave his Son, and the Son gave Himself so that we might be restored to the life and communion for which we were created.
It is in this gift that we see and experience the true nature of giving. First, our Lord gave himself freely. He did this because of His great love for us. Jesus became like us in every way with the exception of sin. He began his life in the womb, then as an infant. He endured temptation, suffering and death, and He affirmed the power of faith through His Resurrection. In this revelation of God’s love, our Lord has given completely, freely, and willingly so that we might be saved.
Second, Christ offered himself in humility. He did not enter this world in all of the trappings of royalty and might. He did not come seeking fame, political power, and wealth. It would appear that He came in weakness and obscurity and that His meager beginnings would be no match for worldly authority. But in His humility was His power. In entering our humanity, our Lord exalted what had been made low by sin and death. As the Son of God Incarnate, He affirmed the divine imprint on our creation and our lives. Through His birth, life, teaching, and miracles He baffled the so-called wise of this world, brought down pride and spiritual arrogance, and illumined the path of truth so that all might enter His kingdom.
Third, the offering of our Lord was one of peace. His compassionate sacrifice of himself was not accomplished through violence. His birth signified that His cause was life, and even through His death He revealed His power to give and uphold life. The peace offered by Christ is an enduring peace that is experienced and sustained not by the sword, but through faith and love.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Let us contemplate what our Lord has offered to us, especially during this time of year when we give to one another. Giving can and should be a blessed and beautiful act toward others when we know the true nature of giving. Our Lord has given to us freely, and in humility and love. In the challenges of our lives and the uncertainty of our world He gives us peace. What can we offer to Him and to one another? In our celebration of this great Feast of the Nativity, we can affirm our faith in Him. We can and should offer all of our being for His glory and service, sharing in the life, love, and peace that will be ours for all eternity.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America
Encyclical of the Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch for Christmas 2007
December 25, 2007