Christmas Encyclical 2015
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready
to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason
for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear…”
1 Peter 3:15
Beloved in the Lord,
We celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior, a feast of great joy, at a time when many of us are filled with anxiety and concern. The attacks in Paris, Roseburg, and San Bernardino have shaken us to the core. Innocent people’s lives were lost over senseless violence, thus making it increasingly difficult to celebrate the beauty of this season when tragedy surrounds us.
It is in this time of great sadness that we must work even harder to find the joy of Christmas. This will take deeper examination – one that looks beyond the lights, the trees, and the wrapping paper – where we find a profound reality that can restore the hope that still resides in our hearts through the message: Christ is Born! The Almighty God has not abandoned us, but instead He sent His only Son into our fractured world. He did this over 2,000 years ago, and still He is with us today, giving us hope for peace and unity.
That hope is also seen in the mystery of the Incarnation, the paradox of the Nativity, where God the transcendent becomes God the immanent. God in the abstract becomes God the person. A tiny baby born in Bethlehem is more than just “a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” (Luke 10:12). He is Christ the Lord, the Son of God, co-eternal with His Father. He is the Son of the Almighty God, filled with power and might, the“Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6).
Beloved, the birth of Christ is a realization of hope. At the time of the nativity so many centuries ago, the people of Israel hoped for a world of justice and freedom from Roman oppression and tyranny. We celebrate this Christmas at a time when we hope for a world of peace and righteousness, made possible through the birth of Christ that dispels fear and anxiety because we know that “God is with us”.
As we hear the story of the nativity from the Scripture and the hymns of our Church in our parishes in the Divine Services, let us hear the words and allow them to permeate our hearts so that the hope residing within us can overcome the darkness of this age, so that we may sing as the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest”. As we partake of Holy Communion on this great feast let us praise the Almighty God Who has sent His Son to us and gives Himself for our sakes. Let us greet one another with the traditional “Merry Christmas”, but also with the true message of this day, “Christ is Born!”
May hope fill you and your beloved families this Christmas and all the days to come.
With Love in Our Newborn King,
+ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco