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Festal Letter for the Glorious Feast of the Nativity 2011

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My Beloved, the Blessed Children of the Holy Church,

I start my message with the same words that St. Gregory the Theologian started his sermon for the Feast of the Nativity in 380 A.D., “Christ is born, glorify Him. Christ from heaven, go out to meet Him. Christ on earth, exalt Him.”

Our celebration this year comes amidst hardships.  The groaning of the injured and those imprisoned, along with the tears of their families and the families of the Martyrs from the children of Alexandria and El-Omraneya still echoes in our ears.  The images of the demonstrations of prejudice and hatred in Cairo and Alexandria, as well as the burnt homes and looting of the shops in the village of El-Nawahed are still in front of our eyes.  The names of our martyrs in El-Kosheh, Nag-Hammadi, and elsewhere never leave our memory.  This is all on the ecclesiastical level.  On the personal or family level, there maybe a financial difficulty, a family problem, or the suffering of one of our beloved from a chronic illness, which all reverberate in our ears or are in front of our eyes.

Amidst all these conditions comes the importance of our celebration of the Feast of the Nativity, for it is the celebration of the birth of our Hope, Who does not disgrace us, despite the cruel circumstances.

My Beloved,

Today, we need to go out to meet our Christ, the Babe of Bethlehem, to revive our hope, for He is the Hope of those who have no hope and the Help of those who have no helper, the comfort of the fainthearted, and the harbor of those in the storm. Loss of hope is death, and life without hope is like living in the shadow of death.  The person living without hope, is a person living inside the darkness of the tomb of despair.  Christ came to us to shine upon us with the light of hope and bring us out of the tombs of despair, as the Holy Bible said, “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned”  (Matt. 4:16).

For every hopeless person, there is a comforting story in the Book of Ezekiel, chapter 37.  In this story, God brought Ezekiel the Prophet out and showed him a valley full of dead and very dry bones bones, and He asked him, “Son of man, can these bones live?”  (Ez. 37:3).  Then God commanded him, “Prophecy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!  Thus says the Lord God to these bone, “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live.  I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live.  Then you shall know that I am the Lord”’” (Ez. 37:4-6).  Ezekiel prophesied as the Lord commanded him.  What was the result?  Let us joyfully hear what he said, “So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army”  (Ez. 37:10).  What is the meaning of this story?  Let us listen to God’s explanation to Ezekiel, as well as all of us, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.  They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’  Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.  Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves.  I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land.  Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,’ says the Lord”  (Ez. 37:11-14).

My Beloved,

These bones are us when we lose our hope and enter the tombs of despair, saying our bones are dry and our hope is lost.  Our Living God, Who was incarnate, tells us “O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves,.. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live”.   Christ told us, “In the world you will have tribulations.”  Yet, He gave us His true promise, “But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”  (Jn. 16:33).  We overcome the world and the conspiracies of the wicked people not by using the weapons of the world and its wicked ways, but by the power of our Living Christ and the action of the His Holy Spirit living within us.  No matter how intense the darkness of the tribulation is upon us, we have faith that behind the cloud is the Sun of Righteousness.

Let us go out to joyfully meet our Living Christ, our Hope, Who will never be lost.  Let us glorify Him in our lives and exalt Him.  Let His commandments and teachings guide our lives and lead our actions.  May we have the mind of Christ, Who overcame evil by good and conquered the world by love, changing the wolves to lambs through the sacrifice of love on the cross.

Let us listen to His joyful voice as He knocks on the doors of our hearts.  Let us open so He may come in and abide within us according to His true promises, “If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me”  (Rev. 3:20).

We pray for the peace of the Holy Church and for our beloved father and faithful shepherd, H.H. Pope Shenouda III that God may help him in leading the Church during these times and give him many long and healthy years.

We pray for our suffering brothers and sisters everywhere and for every distressed soul that the Babe of Bethlehem may shine upon them, us, and all His loving people with the light of hope.

 

Wishing you many happy returns.
Bishop Serapion

 

Download the Festal Message in Arabic (PDF)

Download the Festal Message in English (PDF)

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