Bishop’s 2016 Nativity Letter

My Dear Clergy and Faithful,

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

O Christ, You became a creature made of the clay of the earth; by sharing in our human nature.
You made us share in Your divine nature.
You became a mortal man, but You are still God.
You have lifted us up from our fallen state:
Holy are You, O Christ and Lord! (Nativity Canon of Matins, Ode 3)

In Eden, contrary to the command of God, Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thereby creating the brokenness of our human nature. Although “made in the image and likeness of God”, Adam and Eve and we their descendants “became subject to corruption and decay through sin. But now the wise Creator re-creates us again, for “He is gloriously triumphant” (Ode 1).

God’s new plan to redeem those He created included His birth on earth as a human being like us. “When He saw man perishing, whom He had made with His own hands, the Creator bowed the heavens and came down. He took man’s nature from the pure Virgin and He truly became a man” (Ode 1).

Christ comes to restore the image and likeness. As human beings, we cannot lose being the image of God, but our likeness to God can be harmed and tarnished. Since God is a living God, we are also made to share His life. God is good — we are made to be good. He is wise, peaceful, and joyful; He is kind, compassionate and gentle — we must be the same. His birth in the flesh provides us the opportunity to be renewed.

There is another tree in the garden of Eden —the “Tree of Life”, (Genesis 2:9). This tree symbolizes communion with God. Christ is born and the tree of life is planted on earth. We may say that this tree is Christ himself, blossoming from the Virgin in the cave of Bethlehem. We, the children of Adam and Eve, are invited to come and eat of its fruit, the fruit of the Spirit given by Jesus in the kingdom of God.

The kingdom of God began in Eden, the Garden of Paradise. Disobedience blocked the
Tree of Life. The Nativity hymns provide the recreation event of Christ’s birth as a “homecoming”

“Bethlehem has opened Eden! Come let us see! We have found joy in a secret place hidden from the eyes of the world. We can take possession of Paradise that is within the cave. There the unwatered root has appeared, flowering forth in pardon. There too is the undug well, from which David longed to drink of old. There the Virgin has brought forth a child who will quench the thirst of Adam and all his descendants. Come then, let us hasten in spirit to the place where the newborn Child has come for all mankind, for He is God from all eternity” (Ikos of Matins).

Isaiah the Prophet speaks of the coming of the Savior; “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Emmanuel means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Yes, the Lord is with us and in us. He shares His nature so we may become godly.

As we celebrate the birth of Christ — God’s manifestation to us in the flesh, we do not merely commemorate history, but rather His rebirth in us, and not just on Christmas, but every day of our life. His birth is the proclamation of joy — we must be joyful and proclaim this joy to everyone. He is the Prince of Peace — we must always be peacemakers. He is God’s love for us in our midst, we must love each other. He is God’s forgiveness and reconciliation — we must forgive and be reconciled with all.

May God in human flesh, Jesus Christ, fill your lives with love, joy, forgiveness, and peace. And may you live this and spread this far and wide.

My love, prayers, and blessings for a holy season of rebirth and new life.

Sincerely yours in Christ God,

✠ Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Eparchial Bishop of Newton