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Papal Letter for the Feast of the Nativity 2002

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My beloved children, Clergy and Congregation in the lands of immigration.

I congratulate you on the Holy Feast of the Nativity, wishing you all goodness and I would like to talk to you about the love of Christ through His incarnation.

THE STORY OF THE BIRTH OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST IS A STORY OF LOVE

Man was condemned to death as a result of his sin, because as the Bible says, "The wages of sin is death." But because of God’s love for mankind, Christ came to save man from death, by dying in his place. The Holy Bible says that, "For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

Because of Christ’s love for mankind, being God’s Son, He became man in order for man to return to be a son of God. So He, "Made Himself of no reputation taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of man. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross." (Philippians 2:7-8)

If we talk about the story of the Lord’s birth with all its details, without mentioning the love therein, then we would not have positioned it in the right place.

Due to Christ’s love for man, He wanted to restore him to his original state in which he was created, according to God’s image, (Genesis 1:26), in righteousness, piety and holiness. So the Lord was born in this image, righteous, without sin to enable people to imitate His image, as He presented to them the example, and those who abide in Him ought to walk just as He walked. (1 John 2:6)

Man, in his sin, lost his power and became weak before the devil and fell. The Lord Jesus Christ came to give man strength and power over all the devils and unclean spirits (Matthew 10:1) (Luke 10:19). In that He showed His love to mankind.

Man’s fall caused his body to become against his spirit, as Saint Paul the apostle said, "For the flesh lusts against the spirit; and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another." (Galatians 5:17) Hence, due to His love to mankind, Christ came to sanctify the body through His birth, and make it a dwelling for the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16) and a temple for Him.

During his life in the world, man’s troubles and hardships increased and the burden became heavy. Hence, in Christ’s love to man through His incarnation He said, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)

In the prophecy of Isaiah the prophet, it was also said about Him that He came, "to preach good tidings to the poor and heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound." (Isaiah 61:1) Isaiah also says about Him, "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows."(Isaiah 53:4)

Due to man’s sin, "Earth brought forth for him both thorns and thistles." (Genesis 3:18) But the Lord Jesus Christ, through His incarnation, carried the thorns on His head, instead of man, because of His love.

During the period of Christ’s incarnation on earth, people suffered from the teachers who shut up the gates of the Kingdom before them and made them carry heavy burdens (Matthew 23:13, 4) Because of Christ’s love for man, He rebuked those teachers and called them blind guides and said to them, "you neither go in yourselves nor do you allow those who are entering to go in."

They used to despise sinners, but the Lord Jesus Christ in His love, had compassion for them. He even defended the woman who was caught in adultery and said to those who wanted to stone her, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." (John 8:7) He also sat at the table of tax collectors who were despised by the leaders of the Jews. When the Pharisees criticized Him for that, the Lord answered saying, "those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. For I did not come to call the righteousness, but sinners to repentance." (Matthew 9:11, 13)

In His love, the Lord accepted Zacchaeus, the tax collector, entered his house and said, "Today salvation has come to this house." When the Jews grumbled at His entry into a sinner’s house, He said, "For the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost." (Luke 19:9-10) And so the Lord was kind towards sinners, leading them to repentance and explaining that there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety nine just persons who need no repentance (Luke 15:7-10).

The Lord Jesus Christ in His love, "when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd." (Matthew 9:36)

He was compassionate towards the fallen more than to the proud, "…those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous." He gave the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector as an example of this. He said about the contrite hearted tax collector that, "he went down to his house justified rather than the other." (Luke 18:14)

He also had compassion for those who did not receive recognition from the Jewish society, such as women and children. He said about children that, "unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven."
(Matthew 18:3) During His entry into Jerusalem whilst the children cried out in a loud voice to welcome Him, the Scribes and Chief priests protested, and the Lord said to them, "I tell you that if those should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out." (Luke 19:40) He also reminded them of the Psalm that says, "out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise." (Matthew 21:16) It is also said about His love for children that, "He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them." (Mark 10:16)

If women never received their appropriate dignity in the Jewish society, the Lord Jesus Christ gave them a prominent position. Many women used to follow Him from Galilee and they provided for Him from their substance (Luke 8:3). Even Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons, became His disciple and after the Resurrection, He appeared to her and asked her to preach the Good News to the disciples (Mark 16:9).

The Lord also blessed the house of Mary and Martha at Bethany and brought their brother Lazarus back to life (John 11). When Mary poured fragrant oil on His head, some criticized her deed saying that it could have been sold for three hundred Denarii and given to the poor. But the Lord said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me… she did it for My burial." (Matthew 26:10-12)

As the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ was a great joy to the whole world, it was more, through His love, joy to the other nations that were not Jewish. As the Jews used to think that they were God’s only chosen people. But the Lord Jesus Christ added to His flock the Gentiles and the Samaritans who were despised by the Jews.

The Lord praised the Gentile Centurion by saying, "Assuredly I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel. And I say to you that many will come from East and West and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven. But the sons of the Kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness." (Matthew 8:10-12) In His love, the Lord called all to His Kingdom, and so He said to His disciples, "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:15) Before His ascension, He said to them, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8) He also said to them, "Go there and make disciples of all the nations, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19-20)

The Samaritans that the Jews had no dealings with (John 4:9), the Lord treated them with all love. He also preached to the Samaritan woman and to all her city and they believed in Him (John 4:42). He also taught people the parable of the Good Samaritan and showed them that this Samaritan was more righteous, good and merciful than the Jewish priest and the Levite (Luke 10:30-36). Likewise, He also praised the Samaritan, who was healed among the ten lepers, because he was the only one who returned and gave thanks and glorified God (Luke 17:12-18).

The Lord through His love raised the morale of the weak, the poor and the sinners who had been ignored or despised by society.

Through His love also, the Lord was compassionate towards the sick, "He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them." (Luke 4:40) It was also said about Him that He was, "teaching and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. They brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments and those who were demon possessed, epileptics and paralytics and He healed them." (Matthew 4:23-24) He was also "Healing all who were oppressed by the devil."
(Acts 10:38)

Through His love also, He shifted people’s minds from the literal meaning of the law to its spiritual meaning. It has been said that when He met His disciples after the resurrection, that, "He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures." (Luke 24:45)

In His love for all, He went about doing good (Acts 10:38).

It is a lesson for all of us, in love and in doing good. Let us follow His example and I wish you all a happy New Year.

Shenouda III,
Pope of Alexandria and
Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark
January 2002

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