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Festal Letter for the Glorious Feast of the Nativity 2004

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My Beloved, the Blessed Children of the Holy Church ,

It is my pleasure to wish all of you a blessed Feast of the Nativity, on which we celebrate the birth of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ brings a joyous message to humanity, as St. John wrote,

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life – the life was manifested, we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Fr. and was manifested to us- that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Fr. and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. (John 1:1-4)

The goal of the Incarnation of the Son of God the Word, is man’s salvation and restoring him to eternal life .

God created man out of nothing and by grace granted him life. However, by his transgression, man was separated from God, the Source of life. Consequently, man returned to his original state of nothingness, and became subject to the condemnation of death. Therefore, the Word of God was incarnate to restore life to man and save him from the reign of death and the state of corruption and nothingness. In his book, On the Incarnation , St. Athanasius wrote about humanity the following:

“For if, out of a former normal state of non existence, they were called into being by the Presence and loving-kindness of the Word, it followed naturally that when men were bereft of the knowledge of God, they were turned back to what was not (for what is evil is not, but what is good is). Since they derive their being from God who is, they should be everlastingly bereft even of being; in other words, that they should be disintegrated and abide in death and corruption.”

Then St. Athanasius wrote: “What further step was needed? Or what was required for such grace and such recall, but the Word of God, who had also at the beginning made everything out of nothing? ”

Therefore, the goal of the Incarnation was to offer us fellowship with God the Fr. and with His Son, Jesus Christ. This fellowship requires that we should return to the state of knowledge of God. Man was created in God’s image and likeness. But by his transgression, man’s nature became corrupt and the image became distorted. As a result, he could no longer have the true knowledge of God, since the knowledge of evil had penetrated his life. The Incarnation of the Word returned us to the state of the true knowledge of God. A knowledge that is not just theoretical, but one that comes through experience, the powerful knowledge that changes our lives.

Knowledge of God leads us to freedom from the slavery to sin .
Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) After Isaiah the Prophet saw the Lord, he felt that he was sinful and had unclean lips (Is. 6:1, 6). Then Isaiah wrote that one of the seraphim took a live coal, which he had taken with tongs from the altar, “and he touched my mouth with it, and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is purged.” (Is. 6:7)

When man distanced himself from God, he distanced himself from the Source of life and light. He ended up walking in darkness, his evil increased, and his sins multiplied. Through the Incarnation of the Word, man was restored to God, to the way of truth, and was granted eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6)

When St. Peter the Apostle met our Lord, and realized the power of His divinity through the miracle of catching the fish, “he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’” (Lk. 5:8) Then our Lord answered him, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” (Lk. 5:10)

True knowledge of the Word of God gives man a new life. We see that in the lives of many. St. Peter changed from a fisherman to one, who catches men; St. Matthew from a tax collector to an apostle; the Samaritan woman from a sinner to an evangelist. When our Lord Jesus Christ visited Zacchaeus, his life was changed and our Lord witnessed to this change by saying, “Today salvation has come to this house.” (Lk. 9:19)

Our Lord Jesus Christ came to our world to change our lives and grant us a new life, a life of holiness, chastity, and purity, a life of fellowship with Him.

Our true joy on the Feast of the Nativity does not come just because our Lord Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem , but rather because He is born in our hearts and brings change to our lives. It is a joy in the new life in Christ, as St. John wrote, “that your joy may be full.” (1 Jn. 1:4) “It is high time to awake out of sleep….Therefore, let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” (Rom. 13:11 ,12)

We entreat our Lord to grant us a blessed feast and help us fulfill the Lord’s commandment, as uttered by the mouth of St. Paul , “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” (Rom. 13:14 )

We pray that our Lord may grant peace and tranquility to the whole world. We pray that He may keep His Church in peace. We ask our Lord to keep for us the life of our beloved father and shepherd, H.H. Pope Shenouda III.

Wishing you many happy returns.

Bishop Serapion

 

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