Tuesday 7 January 2014

Nativity Message from His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom

Nativity Message
7 January 2014

Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office

Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
Media and Communications Office

Nativity Message from His Grace Bishop Angaelos,
General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom
Reconciliation in the Incarnation
Reconciliation is nothing new in Christianity, and its importance has become more evident both in the lives of individuals and, on a larger scale, in that of communities. The very concept of reconciliation was made manifest most powerfully through the Incarnation, and ultimately in the Cross of our Lord. Through the Incarnation, we, as the most precious of all creation, once again became reconciled to God, our Creator and loving Father, “…that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the Cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.” (Ephesians 2:16)
The heart of God has always been one of reconciliation, to restore what was lost and to repair broken bonds; and we can see this both in the New and Old Testaments.  Not only is it the intention of our Father to be reconciled with all humanity, but through the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have been given an example and are called to follow in His footsteps; this is evident in 2 Corinthians 5:18, “Now all things are of God, Who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation”.
We are encouraged when we remember, especially during this Holy Feast of the blessed Nativity, that our Lord did not make Himself manifest to humanity in a glorified state, but rather took flesh and willingly bore the pains of poverty. Our Lord lived in adversity and endured hostility with all humility in order that we may attain strength through Him, and in that knowledge, to overcome any challenges we may encounter.
Our true strength as Christians lies in the determined and continued efforts to faithfully abide in our Lord, living and serving as He did. As has been the case for centuries, the powerful witness of Christians in Egypt and throughout the Middle East, and the spirit of non-retaliation and love for those who consider themselves enemies, comes naturally by the grace of God and continues to testify to the presence of our Lord as He instructs us saying, “…But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44-45)
The world has truly witnessed the manifest love of Christ in the spirit of forgiveness demonstrated by members of our community in Egypt as they have suffered repeated assaults and endured hostility, incitement and hatred. In bearing the very personal attacks on individuals, communities, churches, homes and businesses, the super-human power of restraint and forgiveness, which can only come from our Lord, has overcome all that has sought to threaten our very existence in Egypt. Despite repeated attempts to provoke Christians to anger and retaliation, there has been nothing but resilience, perseverance, humility, restraint and love demonstrated towards all those who seek to cause harm.
Whether one lives in the Middle East, in the United Kingdom, or anywhere in the world, there will always be an opportunity to be a reconciling agent at some level, and it is at this time that we follow in our Saviour’s footsteps and become “peacemakers” so that we are “children of our heavenly Father”.
As we celebrate the Feast of the Nativity, we must remember that through this witness, as with the humble reconciling Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are called to be those who continually testify to the love of God for all humanity. In doing so we can “overcome evil with good”, providing, in the midst of such apparent darkness, a guiding light and the opportunity for all to be reconciled to Christ.  
We pray blessings, joy and protection upon all those celebrating this New Year and the commemoration of the Birth of our Saviour, while holding in our prayers those living in areas of conflict in the Middle East, Africa and throughout the world, that we may sing with the angels “Glory be to God in the Highest, peace on earth and goodwill towards men.”