TO OUR CLERGY, RELIGIOUS, SEMINARIANS AND BELOVED FAITHFUL,
Christ is born!
“…all at once with the angel there appeared a great throng of the hosts of heaven, praising God with the words:
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” (Luke 2:13-14)
This was the joyous proclamation of the angels at the most significant event in human history to that point: the birth of the Messiah, the Son of God, in a stable in Bethlehem.
This intrusion of God into the world of men was something that was totally unexpected; it caught everyone off guard. In fact, we can say that, in sending his Son to us, God interrupted the normal course of events in the lives of many people. In the Gospel narrative, we see this clearly in those most closely associated with the Nativity of Christ.
Mary and Joseph were a typical young couple of the time, betrothed to each other in anticipation of a formal marriage that would take place some time in the future. That is, until the angel of the Lord appeared to them both, leaving their plans in shambles.
The shepherds were settling in for a long, uneventful night tending their sheep. That is, until the angels suddenly filled the sky and sent them hurrying in search of a poor stable.
The Magi were esteemed and established scholars in far-off Persia. That is, until a mysterious star compelled them to make a long and arduous journey to Palestine.
And Herod sat contentedly on his throne in Jerusalem. That is, until the Magi brought him the astonishing news of the birth of a would be pretender to his throne that shook him to his core. Indeed, the news of Jesus’ birth not only interrupted the lives of these people, it totally upended them.
It is more important for us however, to observe how God’s interruption changed these people, for better or worse.
We see that Mary and Joseph did not fall into anger or despair at the predicament they found themselves in. Rather, they embraced in obedience, the news brought by the Archangel Gabriel, as the will of God for them. “Let it be done according to your word” said Mary to Gabriel, while Joseph “did what the angel of the Lord told him to do”.
The shepherds were rewarded for their sleepless night with the honor of being first to worship the Son of God in the flesh. The Magi were privileged with being the first to bring gifts to the newborn King. Only King Herod did not embrace God’s intrusion into his life as a blessing, unleashing rather, a violent wave of terror and bloodshed upon the innocent citizens of Bethlehem.
Dearly beloved in Christ! Each of our lives is filled with interruptions, inconveniences, and unexpected intrusions. Though these are unexpected, they are not random, meaningless events. In fact, these interruptions are divinely placed by God in our path for a reason. Like Herod, we do not always react as we should when these interruptions occur. So, God uses these interruptions to teach us patience and to transform us into better and more Christ-like Christians. The small frustrations, the little interruptions in our life, in reality present opportunities for us to rely on God, to obey Him and to embrace His will for us.
A contemporary spiritual writer puts it this way: “You and I don’t live in a series of big dramatic moments. We don’t run from one big decision to the next. Rather, we all live in an endless series of little every day moments that shape our life. And the struggles that emerge from these little moments when things don’t go our way, when our plans fail and our life is interrupted, reveal the character of our heart.”
Perhaps, we can view the pandemic that is spreading throughout the world at the pre-sent time as one of these unexpected and unwanted intrusions into our life. It has certainly interrupted our celebration of Our Lord’s Nativity in a dramatic fashion.
Because of it, our ability to travel and visit friends and family with the joy of Christmas has been greatly restricted. Caroling concerts and Christmas plays have been cancelled. Even worse, our ability to come together in our parish churches to worship Christ in His Nativity in the divine services is diminished as well. Perhaps we have ourselves been sickened with the virus or have lost friends or family to it. And because of this we have become embittered, sad and depressed. When will it finally end?
Dear brothers and sisters! Instead of falling into despair, let us resolve to look upon this interruption in our life through the eyes of faith and as a God-given opportunity to grow in grace, in spiritual peace, and in love for each other. At this time when most of us are more homebound, let us devote more time to personal and family prayer, spiritual reading and meditation upon the miracle of Christ’s Incarnation and His coming to us as a helpless baby. And let us be true neighbors and stretch our helping hands and hearts to those in our communities who are suffering both spiritually and physically during these difficult days.
And remember that with the Birth of Christ all fear and doubt are conquered, all dark-ness and chill are banished, leaving only the light, warmth and love of the newborn Emanuel – God With Us! May the blessing of the newborn Christ be with all of you!
Christ is Born! – Glorify Him!
Archbishop of Philadelphia for Ukrainians
Metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States
+Paul Chomnycky, OSBM (author)
Eparch of Stamford
Eparch of St. Nicholas in Chicago
+Bohdan J. Danylo
Eparch of St. Josaphat in Parma
Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia