Happy New Year 2022 and merry Christmas to all of you, I wish you all would enjoy goodness, peace and joy, we plead for God, the Lover of mankind to protect our Egypt and the world from the pandemic and every distress.
In the glorious Nativity, God’s love to man has been manifested; He condescended, came down to our earth and was incarnated to reconcile the earthly with the heavenly, to open the gates of heaven for us, restoring our lost life. God’s abundant love for mankind is eternal; God has kept man in His mind and heart, bearing great love for him: “Rejoicing in His inhabited world, and my delight was with the sons of men.” (Proverbs 8: 31)
Thus, God loved man so that He so accurately created the universe for him, with all its animals and magnificent nature. The Church expresses such great love in prayers: “Because of the multitude of Your tender mercies, You have brought me into existence when I was not. You have raised heaven as a roof for me, and established the earth for me to walk upon. For my sake, you have bound the sea. For my sake, You have manifested the nature of animals. You have subjected all things under my feet. You have not left me in need of any of the works of Your honor.” Out of God’s love to man, He created him in His image: “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1: 26).
God loved man, so He promised him with the redemption and salvation from the eternal death and perdition, as man had sinned and became destined to eternal death and perdition: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3: 15). Until the promise was fulfilled and the Savior was born, God had never left mankind unguided along the path of life; He rather sent them prophets to teach them the path to God in order for all who pursue His commandments to live in the hope of redemption. He also felt compassionate towards the sinners and called them to repentance to gain salvation, He spoke to Prophet Jonah: “And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?” (Jonah 4: 11), He said that the pleasure of His heart is the repentance of the sinners: “Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live? (Ezekiel 18: 23). Hence, God kept working for the salvation of the humankind: “I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love, and I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them.” (Hosea 11: 4)
Out of God’s love to man, He prepared the mankind to receive the Savior; Prophet Isaiah wrote that He would be born of a virgin: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7: 14)
He prophesied: “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)
Then He declared His love for mankind by coming Himself, taking on the characteristics of our humanity, living among us; that is why His name is called: Emmanuel; which means “God is with us”- and its exact translation is: “God pitched His tent among us”; He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, took a flesh and lived on the earth, He sacrificed Himself to redeem us: “but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2: 7)
Nativity is God’s gift to mankind; for that, the angels chanted their eternal hymn: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14). Thus, Nativity became a defining day in human history, for on this day, God announced His exalted love for mankind, about which He spoke to Prophet Jeremiah: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” (Jeremiah 31:3). Saint Augustine tasted such love and expressed it saying: “You watch over me, as if You have forgotten the entire creation! You give me your gifts, as if I were the only subject of Your love!” We cannot help but receiving this love with love too, we love Him because He loved us first.
Happy many returns to all of you
The General Bishop
Head of the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Center