As always His Eminence comes through with a timely and appropriate Christmas message. Read it below or here at the Metropolis website. You can also find a Greek version on the site.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.” (Isiah 9:2) “for a child has been born for us, a son given to us.” (Isaiah 9:6)
My brothers and sisters,
Again this Christmas, the Savior of the World comes wrapped in swaddling clothes to be born in the manger of our hearts to bring us joy and peace. He who lays in the manger is God Himself who comes “to visit us who are mired in darkness and shadow.” (Christmas Exapostelarion)
Christmas is a mystery of love, joy and peace. That first Christmas, it was proclaimed to the world by the shepherds. It was to the shepherds that the Lord’s angel appeared bearing the salvific news. It was the shepherds who were in the fields watching their flocks that God selected to announce the glad tidings of the birth of the Savior.
The joy of Christmas was not first shared with the political leaders of the day, who surely would have been disappointed had they seen the “King of Kings and the Lord of Lords” in the person of a child wrapped in swaddling clothes. They surely would not have been impressed with Mary, a simple peasant woman and Joseph a mere carpenter. Nor was the news of the birth of the Savior shared with the leaders of the synagogue who certainly would have been better messengers than the shepherds, having studied the Prophet Isiah who described the Savior as “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually.” (Isiah 9:6-7) Surely they would have scoffed at the possibility of the Messiah lying helpless in a manger.
No. The mystery of Christmas was revealed to the Shepherds. God who “brought down the powerful and lifted up the lowly” (Luke 1:52) chose the shepherds – the common people of the world, to proclaim the Christmas story. After hearing the angelic doxology “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and goodwill among men” (Luke 2:14), the shepherds immediately went to Bethlehem “to see this thing that has taken place that the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:15) After seeing the Savior, they joyfully proclaimed the good news “and all who heard it were amazed at what the Shepherds told them.” (Luke 2:18)
As modern day shepherds, it is our faith in the Incarnate Lord that we are called to share. It is our steadfast faith that God “sent his only son into the world so that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9) “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son so that whoever believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16) In the cold stable of Bethlehem, the Virgin foresaw the violent drama which would be enacted on Calvary – the traumatic struggle between light and darkness, hatred and love, death and life. The Prince of Peace born in Bethlehem on Christmas day would later be crucified on Golgotha “to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) It is this faith that we must witness to the world. It is this mystery of love, joy and peace that we – today’s shepherds – must proclaim to a world which finds itself lost “in the depths of the grave, in regions dark and deep.” (Psalms 88:6)
From the cave of Bethlehem there rises an urgent message to the world not to yield to the tragic reality of terrorism and death, of fear, of uncertainty, of mistrust, of discouragement and suspicion which grip our every moment. The example of the shepherds penetrates through history to challenge us to be men and women of goodwill. It is only then that we may live and share our faith. It is only then that we may build peace. It is only then that we may put an end to all forms of intolerance and discrimination. It is only then that the mindless spiral of blind violence in our neighborhoods, in our cities and towns in America and throughout the world will finally end.
May the Prince of Peace be born in the Manger of our hearts, and may we share our faith in the Incarnate Lord with all humanity.
With Archpastoral love in the Incarnate Lord,
+ M E T H O D I O S
Metropolitan of Boston
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January 1st, 2016 by Fr. Greg