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Festal Letter for the Glorious Feast of the Nativity 2002

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DO NOT BE AFRAID…
“I Bring You Good Tidings of Great Joy” (Lk. 2:10)

My Beloved, the Blessed Children Of the Christ-loving Diocese of Los Angeles,
It is my pleasure to wish all of you a blessed Feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer.

This feast comes following the tragic events of September 11th, which claimed the lives of thousands of innocent victims and thousands others suffered as a result of losing their loved ones. Innocent children lost their fathers or mothers and many families were left without a provider. For thousands of people, these events created fear and anxiety. Unfortunately, these evil events are not confined only to this one day, since the evildoers still threaten us, and there will be victims as a result of the present war against them.

We pray for peace in the United States and in the whole world. We pray for President George Bush and his cabinet members so the Lord may grant them wisdom and power to lead the coalition of good against evil and the extremists. We pray for all the victims of these events, especially for the wife, sons, and family members of our blessed brother, Adel Karas, who was a victim of the aftermath of these events.

My Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
This year, the Feast of the Nativity of our Savior Jesus Christ carries for us a message of joy and special comfort, since this great evil, which we saw and experienced its results, was conquered by the incarnation of our Good Savior. Today, as we celebrate the Divine Incarnation and the victory of good over evil, there is a message of joy and hope for us. The good tidings, which the angel gave to the shepherds, is, “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.” (Luke 2:10-11)

Today, the message of the Feast of the Nativity is one of joy and peace. Since Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden in peace and were unaware of fear, man did not start to experience fear except after the Fall. After Adam disobeyed God’s commandment, fear entered his heart. Therefore, we hear Adam telling God, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself.” (Gen. 3:10) From then on, man started to be afraid. He fears death, nature, the unknown, the future, those who are stronger than him, sickness, fierce animals, earthquakes, volcanoes, storms, and the list goes on. The more man does evil and stays away from God, the more he becomes fearful with no peace in his heart for the Bible says, “There is no peace, says the Lord, for the wicked.” (Is. 48:22)

My Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
Christ came to our world to remove fear from our hearts and to grant us His peace that surpasses all imagination. Christ came to cure the main cause of fear in the human life, which is the separation of man from God. Man, who was alienated from God, became a son of God only through Christ. Therefore, regardless of the surrounding events, will the son be afraid while he is in his Fr.’s house? Definitely, not. Let us listen to what the Holy Spirit says on the mouth of St. Paul the Apostle regarding our peace with God, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken the middle wall of separation…And He came and preached peace to you, who were afar off and to those who were near…Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” (Eph. 2:13,14, 17, 19) The birth of Christ granted peace to the world that was cursed because of the disobedience of the first man. Therefore, at His birth, the angels praised God saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:4) Christ our Lord conquered death and abolished its sting, liberating us from fear of death, “Inasmuch then as children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Heb. 2:14-15)

My Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
Despite the fear and anxiety that prevail in the world, yet on this joyous day, we look up towards our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ, Who was incarnate for our salvation because of His love for us. As we look at His hands and side to see the signs of His love, His power, and His victory over all evil and all kinds of fear, we will feel peace and will hear His joyful voice telling us, “Peace be unto you.” Consequently, we will feel a joy, which no one can take away from us. Any time we lose our peace and are afraid, we find refuge in our Lord and can say, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident.” (Ps. 27:1-3) Let us praise God with the hymn of peace of our beloved Church and say, “O King of Peace, grant us Your peace, confirm Your peace in us and forgive us our sins.”

May the Lord grant us genuine repentance and pure hearts to receive the Babe of the manger, so He may dwell amongst us. Then, we can truly say with the Church, “Emmanuel our God is in our midst with the glory of His Fr. and the Holy Spirit.”

Let us pray for the peace of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church and for our beloved father and loving shepherd, H.H. Pope Shenouda III.

Wishing you all many happy returns

Bishop Serapion
Servant of the Diocese of Los Angeles
January 2002

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