December 25, 2015
The Nativity of Christ
For unto us a Child is born, and His name
will be called…Prince of Peace! (Isaiah 9:6)
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, thePresidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On this blessed Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I greet you in the grace, joy and peace that accompany this unique event. We celebrate our Lord’s holy Incarnation as a miraculous revelation of God’s grace, and through faith we see the path to redemption, restoration, and life without end. Our hearts are filled with joy, for our hope is renewed in the fulfillment of His divine promise to save us and be with us. We also experience the peace of God, which passes all understanding(Philippians 4:7), as our hearts and minds are filled with the transforming presence of Christ.
He has come to us as the Prince of Peace, offering a divine peace that is much greater than any comfort or security offered in this world. It is a peace that is available to all humanity, regardless of current challenges, threats, living conditions or stage of life. It is a peace that cannot be disturbed by the violence and insecurities of this broken world, for its origin is the God of peace, and it is sustained by His abundant grace.
In our celebration of the Feast of the Nativity, we acknowledge the power of the peace of God in several ways. In our Great Vespers service we read the prophecies of Isaiah regarding the Incarnation of Christ, affirming the biblical revelation that His peace restores a created order that has been burdened by sin, violence and death. The Prophet states that He comes with wisdom, understanding, and righteousness, bringing a peace by which the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them (Isaiah 11:6). These images reveal that the presence and peace of our Lord restores the relationships of creation to what God intended them to be. Through the power of the Incarnation, we are given a glimpse of life to come and how it will be when the earth is full of the knowledge of the Lord(Isaiah 11:9).
As the Prince of Peace our Lord also brings to us peace through justice. In the same passage from Isaiah we read with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and reprove with equity the meek of the earth(Isaiah 11:4). Those who struggle without security—the poor, the hungry, the oppressed, the refugee, the orphan, the sick—they can find peace in the midst of their challenges and afflictions. In Christ, we have peace through justice and justice through peace, as He offers salvation to all. His Incarnation is the seal of that promise.
Justice and righteousness as a foundation of divine and enduring peace shows a clear distinction between the spiritual peace granted by God and the temporal peace we often experience. In the world around us, peace is maintained through the use of force or the ability to use it when necessary. The priority of the rule of law is affirmed, with an emphasis on punishment or consequences for disrupting public order. Peace is also linked to economic stability and thwarting the chaos that could ensue if systems failed. All of these concepts of peace are important in our lives, but they are very limited. The peace of God that is revealed by Christ is a peace that we can have no matter the conditions of life, society, or level of security. It is a peace that comes through faith as we trust in the promises of God. As we see in Christ and in the lives of many Saints, it is a peace that stands in the face of great adversity, that is not dependent on any temporal security of life, status or property, but is strengthened by the hope we have in the grace of God.
As we celebrate this Feast of the Nativity in the presence of our Incarnate Lord, and we reflect on the significance of His birth and the revelation of God’s grace, may your hearts and minds be filled with His peace. Let this peace surround us as we deepen our faith in Christ, seek transformation by His grace, and commit all of our life to Him. In addition, as we proclaim “Christ is born, Glorify Him,” may we offer a witness of the peace that comes from above, revealing the love of God through our Lord’s Incarnation to all the world.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America