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Christmas Encyclical 2011

of His Eminence, Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco

“That we may receive the King of all…”

Dearly beloved,

At virtually every Divine Liturgy, we hear these words from the Cherubic Hymn. With the Christmas Season and the glorious celebration of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ upon us, this short phrase becomes even more meaningful. Christ comes to us a newborn child and we receive Him as Immanuel,

“God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

Christ appears to us in the darkness of a cave and a manger and we receive Him as the Messiah, the Savior of God’s people. Christ is surrounded humbly by shepherds and magi, donkeys and oxen, and we receive him as the King of Kings. Christ is held in the arms of His loving and tender Mother and, like her, we receive Him in our hearts. What more do we need? What earthly gift could possibly match this gift from our Heavenly Father?

For weeks already, the commercials and advertisements have attempted to convince us that if only we were to purchase their product, our Christmas gift would excite the imagination, move hearts, or even prove our love for one another. We can easily be swayed by the desire for the “perfect gift” and spend beyond our means. But the most beautifully wrapped present or the most expensive toy or bauble cannot come anywhere close to the gift that the Most High God has given to us – the gift of His Son. In the face of His gift, all earthly gifts wither to insignificance. Indeed, many of us, the day after Christmas, will head to the stores and malls to return and exchange that “perfect gift” for something else.

In the Feast of Christmas, we celebrate the arrival of Christ, the gift of Christ to us. We cannot return or exchange this gift. We can only receive this gift. And like any precious gift that we have received, we want to show it off to others; we want to share it with others. We share the gift of Christ with others through our actions as members of His Church: first by worshiping the King of All in our churches on this Festival so that we may receive Him in Holy Communion, the gift of Himself to us; and second, by giving to others, donating to church and charity, and opening our homes to family and friends.

We celebrate this Festival at a time of concern and uncertainty. Unrest in the Middle East and the European debt crisis fill the news. Daily we hear and read of the hardships caused by foreclosures and unemployment. We see protest movements over economic and social inequality. Our political discourse has never seemed more discouraging. Yet, as Christians, we are still of good cheer. As the prophet Isaiah said,

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder, and His name will be called ‘Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’” (Isaiah 9:6).

In this Nativity Season and the Feast of Theophany to come, we proclaim that the one described by the prophets has come to all the world: Jesus Christ, born of Mary in Bethlehem, the Son of God.

May the gift that comes from above this year, the gift of the Coming of the Son of God, be received from us with abiding love.

With Love in our Newborn King,

+ G E R A S I M O S

Metropolitan of San Francisco