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Festal Letter for the Glorious Feast of the Nativity 2000

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“BE RECONCILED TO GOD”
(2 Cor. 5:20)

My Beloved, Blessed Children of the Church,

On this blessed night, it is my pleasure to wish you a Blessed Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and to also wish you a blessed New Year, new century, and new millennium.  May the Lord grant us all to start a good new beginning and make us enjoy the blessings of the life with Christ, Who loved us and gave Himself up for our sake.

The birth of Christ is a new beginning for humanity.
The birth of Christ is the beginning of a new relationship between man and God.
The birth of Christ is the beginning of the reconciliation between man and God.

This year as we celebrate the Incarnation of Christ and the beginning of the third millennium, I would like to remind you of what the Holy Spirit inspired St. Paul to write, “Be reconciled to God.”  (2 Cor. 5:20).

Sin alienated man from God and formed an enmity between them.  The Incarnation of the Son of God and His coming to us reconciled us to God.

God, in His deep love for the sinful man, initiated the reconciliation. Man, as a sinner, could not reconcile with God.  But as a result of the Holy God’s deep love and mercy, He humbled Himself in order to reconcile man to Himself.

Reconciliation is the Work of the Holy Trinity
The Fr. reconciled us through His Son, Jesus Christ.  We receive the fruit of this reconciliation by our birth through the Holy Spirit.  As we distance ourselves from God, the Holy Spirit guides us back to God by means of repentance.  “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”  (2 Cor. 5:28-19)

In the beginning, the Fr. created us by His Word.  In the fullness of time, He created us again by His Incarnate Word.  Indeed, “all things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”  (John 1:3)  We receive the new creation and the new nature when we are born of water and the Spirit, and the Holy Spirit grants us all new things, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  (2 Cor. 5:17)

Reconciliation is Complete by the Revelation of the Truth and the Fulfillment of Justice
In order for God to reconcile us to Himself, He had to reveal to us the fact that we are sinners.  At first, God sent the prophets and gave the law to reveal to man his sins.  The law is holy and the commandment is holy, just, and beneficial.  However, the law and the commandments revealed to man his sin, “I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.”  (Rom. 7:7) God’s commandments revealed that, “They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.”  (Rom. 3:12)

The commandment, which revealed sin to man, also manifested God’s love.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Rom. 5:8)  In reconciling man to Himself, God first revealed to man that he is a sinner.  Then He paid the debt of sin on behalf of man.

God did not just offer man forgiveness of sins freely, but He paid the price of forgiveness, which is His precious blood, because without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.  Christ, Who was without sin, became sin for our sake, paid the debt on our behalf, and offered Himself as a sacrifice for expiation.  “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  (2 Cor. 5:21)  During Holy Pascha Week, we say the following hymn,  “This is He, who offered Himself up on the cross as an acceptable sacrifice for the salvation of our race, and His good Fr. inhaled His sweet aroma on Golgotha in the evening.”   It was impossible to achieve reconciliation without revealing the truth about man’s sin and paying the ransom to the Divine Justice.

My Beloved Brothers and Sisters,

God reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ.  Are we living in reconciliation with God?
God started the reconciliation.  Are we responding to Him?

Reconciliation can not happen only from one side; it can not be just from God’s side.  Although God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth, yet many are not saved because they refuse to come to know the Truth.

Tonight, as we celebrate Christ’s coming to us, are we also celebrating our going to Him?  Christ went to Zacchaeus the tax collector’s house to be reconciled with him. Zacchaeus responded by confessing his injustice to others and offered repentance accompanied by restoring the rights to those whom he oppressed.

Christ went to the Samaritan woman to restore her.  She responded to Him and left her water pot (which represents her former life) and started preaching His name.

Tonight, Christ our Savior stretches out His pierced hands towards us.  Are we stretching our hands to Him by confessing, repenting, and changing our lives?

We pray to our Good Lord to help us to respond to His invitation to reconcile.
We pray to our Good Lord to help us become His ambassadors, calling others to reconcile with Him.
We pray to our Good Lord to help us have reconciliation with ourselves and with one another.
Let us all pray for the lost souls, who are far from God, so they can discover the depth of God’s love and be reconciled to Him, so they can enjoy His incomprehensible peace.
Let us pray for the peace of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
Let us pray that God may keep for us our beloved father and vigilant shepherd, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III.

 

Wishing you all many happy returns

Bishop Serapion
Servant of the Diocese of Los Angeles
January 2000

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