HH Pope Tawadros II Pope of Alexandria and the Patriarch of the see of St. Mark presided over on Saturday January 6, 2018, Feast of Nativity Mass at the Nativity of Christ cathedral, in the new administrative capital in the presence of President Abdel Fattah Sisi.
President Sisi entered the cathedral along with HH Pope Tawadros II, and deliverd a speach in which His Excellency wished a merry Christmas, telling that the country would prevail over the extremists.
“You are our family, you are from us, we are one and no one will divide us,”
HH Pope Tawadros II delivered a sermon on Feast of Nativity Saying.
When we remember the story of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ and what happened in the small village of Bethlehem around 2000 years ago, and how the birth of Christ has become the largest event in history, so much so that it has divided history into “before birth” (B.C.) and “after birth” (A.D.).
And this event has become a definitive event in the life of humanity; a powerful event. Everything that occurred before the birth of Christ is now considered to be the Old Testament, while this event marked the beginning of the New Testament. And so we now live in the New Testament; in the new age. And the old age invites us to meditate, as we gather every year to meet and rejoice in the birth of Christ – a small child, a babe, who grows and becomes a boy.
And our celebration of the birth of the manger or the nativity is a celebration that contains much wonder and amazement. When God created Adam and Eve He created them in a state of righteousness, that they may be righteous, but by their own will, they allowed sin to enter into their lives.
So they choose for themselves, by their own free wills, to break the Commandment and so to also break the love of God for them. And so they were cast out from before God and came into this wide earth, creating a multiplication of people and nations and races and cultures, civilizations and intellectualizations and understandings.
And man continued to make discoveries and put forth theories, and the earth became filled with people and filled with sin also. And so the earth that God had created, and had created it to be beautiful, has become full of difficulties and conflicts.
If you just look at the history of the world and its present state, you will find that there are many difficulties everywhere. And from here, from sin, began to appear and enter the difficulties, crime, violence, terrorism, and all that we hear of what troubles human existence and what has ultimately led to consequences of severe disturbances to humanity and human life.
And the question remains, what should we do? What are we to do? Humanity and the world today is in a state of vicious conflicts. There exist both internal conflicts within each individual human, as well as many external conflicts. Humans have become people who prefer themselves over others, nations that prefer themselves over other nations, races that prefer themselves over other races, and conflict has become the way of life. And from these conflicts spread new kinds of sins, such as atheism and homosexuality and violence. All these sins were born out of the original sin. And so what is the cure?
If we look to the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, a small child, we may find the remedy is in the state of childhood. By this I mean that all of us at one time were in the state of childhood; we were small children, and most of us, if not all of us, spent a happy childhood. And as adults, we remember our own childhood when we see children.
And yet you may marvel with me, my brethren, when we read the verse in the Holy Bible where the Lord Jesus Christ says, “If you do not return and become as little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3) – and He was talking to adults. “If you do not return and become like children, like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of Heaven,” what did He mean by this?
The state of childhood is the state that if humanity were to return to, it would be possible that peace could return on earth. And so to make what I am saying even more clear, I will give some examples of characters and characteristics we can take from the story of the Nativity. I will present five characteristics or qualities from the stage of childhood, which we see in the story of the Nativity.
Summary of the five characteristics/qualities of a child (qualities needed to restore peace on earth and to enter the kingdom of Heaven):
2. Believing and faith
The first characteristic is the characteristic of simplicity. Children are always simple. You find them playing, laughing, crying, forgiving, and then they laugh again. And everything happens very quickly and with complete simplicity. Their lives are simple.
And this simplicity we see in the lives of the shepherds who were the first to come to the Christ child at the stable in Bethlehem. They came to Christ and they were simple. Shepherds do not have a place, their clothing is very simple, their food is very simple, and yet God chose them to be the first to know of the birth of Lord Christ.
O human, if you wish to live happily, then return to the characteristic of simplicity. Always, we see that when a human lives a life of complication, he will also suffer many problems on a personal level. But as for the simple life, and this is not an easy matter, it is an invitation to all of us to live more simply. There is even a Western saying that says, “My house is simple and beautiful, my clothes are simple and beautiful, my food is simple and beautiful” – the simplicity of the shepherds.
The second characteristic is the characteristic of believing and faith. In the story of the nativity we find Zachariah the priest and his wife Elizabeth having no children, which was considered a shame in the Old Testament, especially being that he was a priest. And yet the raising of prayers by him and by his wife continually, led God to give them a wonderful child. God’s delay in giving them a child was so that He may give them John the Baptist, of whom, according to the Holy Bible, is the greatest born among women – believing and faith.
A child believes everything. If you were to tell him a story and say that the tree is speaking and it got up and walked and returned, he believes it and lives in it – imagens it. People today have moved far away from things of faith, and I’m sure you are aware with me of the waves of atheism that have struck many peoples in the world. May God protect Egypt; protect her and her faith.
Faith means the active presence of God in the life of humans, and faith means that humans have a reverent fear of the Divine. It is the feeling one has that God is before him at all times, and so he behaves and moves, goes and comes, and conducts his responsibilities as though God sees him – that God sees his hand while it writes, while he signs his name, that God sees his mouth when it talks and sees his eyes while he looks; God sees the human in all that he does throughout his life.
And so the second characteristic of believing and faith is what children operate in, and they do so in extreme innocence. And this innocence of theirs comes from simplicity, which was the first characteristic we mentioned, and it is very evident in their lives.
And a child looks to his father and mother as though they are able to do everything, and he looks to his teacher as if his teacher can do all things. The child puts his complete trust in the adults. This state of believing is beautiful, and the state of faith is wonderful.
The third characteristic is the characteristic of purity; purity of heart. God sees the heart but the human looks to the eyes – to what is seen, externally. We humans look at each other, we greet each other, talk to each other, and meet with one another. As for what is in the heart, the only One who sees it is God. And so God saw the heart of a young girl, a virgin – the Virgin Mary – and found it to be a pure heart, so He chose her to be a mother for the Christ. And with her purity and pure heart, which was completely pure, she became a strong example.
And so it is with children; there is nothing in their hearts, their hearts are completely pure. Their hearts operate in utter simplicity. And so you find that the heart of a child is a magnificent heart. Whether you’re telling him something or reminding him of a matter or subject, with his heart, with his purity of heart, he sees. And this is apparent even in the small games we play with children; you find a pure heart that is not yet contaminated with the evils of this world.
O human, search for the purity of your heart for it is written, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)
The fourth characteristic is humility, which we find is in the Maggi (the kings). The Maggi were wise men from the East and they were in positions of kings, and yet in them we find the quality of humility. They came a long way from the East all the way to the land of Judea, to search for the boy and to present their gifts. And although they were great kings, we find them bowing before the boy-child, presenting the gold, frankincense, and myrrh – three gifts which have many symbolic meanings. Their humility allowed them to bear the difficulty of the trip, and their obedience and wisdom all shape characteristics found in the stage of childhood.
As for the fifth and final characteristic, it is joy, and it is a quality we see in the angels that appeared during the time of the Nativity. As they sang and praised and said, “Glory be to God in the highest, peace on earth, and goodwill towards man,” (Luke 2:14) they sang with joy.
Children are always in a state of joy. When you sit with a child and talk to him or tell him a story or even tickle him, you find him in utter joy. And it may be that the joy of children also causes us adults to become joyful. And from here comes a nice proverb that we have in Egypt which says, “More beloved than the child is the child’s child.” Meaning, that when the grandparent ages and sees his grandchildren, he sees his childhood in them, and sees extreme joy in them. And so children are truly a source of joy for humans.
O human, oh you who lives in and carries heavy responsibilities, you are invited to be clothed in these characteristics. And if you do not return and become as little children, you will not enter the kingdom of Heaven.
This is the cry or call of childhood that we hear and see in the story of the Nativity. And here we are, as children in their first years, beginning in this new Cathedral in this first liturgy and this first prayer. And as I said, we are all witnesses in it; present in it and rejoicing together.
And the whole world sees our beautiful Egypt, the wonderful one – the nation of history and civilization, the teacher of the world and its inhabitants, in whose heart all are able to live, and of whose history and present lives all knowledge and all modernity.
I congratulate you for the Feast of the Nativity, and I do not forget the martyrs of the nation and the martyrs of the Church. I remember them in goodness and we remember their very precious blood – to all of Egypt and to every Egyptian. And we also pray for those who are hurt and in pain and the injured.
We also pray for everyone that God would keep each of you in His love, and that God would spread His peace in all the places of conflict, and that He would bestow His peace upon our nation. That He would be with the leaders and in their efforts, which we appreciate and highly value. And we also highly value every effort put forth for the land of Egypt, for the sake of the life of Egypt and the life of all Egyptians.
I congratulate you and I wish you a happy year. All glory and honor be to our God, from now and unto eternity, amen.