My dear brothers and sisters,

The grace of God makes us worthy this year to celebrate once more the Metropolis of feasts, Christmas. And, as with every Christian feast, Christmas is an opportunity for all the faithful to discover the deeper spiritual meaning of the feast.

Let us bring to mind the icon of the feast of Christmas.

In the centre of the icon one can see the baby Jesus. The position is not accidental. For this infant is not just a human being. He is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God the Father, the eternal Logos. He comes down and enters the created world not as an almighty God but “having put on” human nature. God humbles himself. And he does this out of love for his creatures; in order to save man and the whole creation from sin, death and the devil.

This is the reason why Christ is found at the centre of the icon: for He is the foundation of the Church. He must be the centre of everyone’s life. He is the Truth, the Life and the Light.

During this period, in many cities one can see festive decorations and lights. Yet, have you noticed that amongst all these ornaments, Christ is absent? People nowadays want to celebrate Christmas, but they do not want to accept the truth of Christ in their lives and to imitate his humility and love. We, my dear brothers and sisters, should not make the same mistake. Let us open our hearts humbly to receive our Savior Jesus Christ.

In the icon of Christmas, Christ is inside a cave. This cave is a symbol of our world. It is rocky and dark because our hearts, too, have hardened out of egotism and the denial of love, and our sin has led us into deep spiritual darkness that prevents us from seeing and rejoicing in the Light and the Love of our heavenly Father. It is this world, which groans from injustice and is destroyed by human greed, that Christ the God-man came to save. This is why Christians are obliged not only to protect the natural environment but also to sanctify it, transferring to it the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Near the baby kneels the Virgin Mary. She venerates her son. She is aware that she serves at a great and incomprehensible mystery. She experienced the miracle at the time of birth, when she gave birth without labor and without her bodily virginity being affected. She gave birth to the God-man. That is why the manner of the birth transcends human reason. The Church honors the humble Virgin and calls her Theotokos (Mother of God) and Panagia (Most Holy). Because she was counted worthy to serve at the Mystery of our salvation, and because God assumed human nature from her virginal and spotless body.

Outside the cave stands Joseph. He is sitting on a rock, amazed at the Mystery that he is beholding with his own eyes. He had received a godly order to protect the Virgin and her child. And the just and pious Joseph obeyed willingly. Let us admire what a great honor God does for us human beings! He seeks and desires our collaboration. That is why the ministry of the Church is assigned not to angels but to human beings—those whom he himself has chosen: the apostles and their successors, the bishops and the priests.

Outside the cave one can also see the angels who are bringing the joyful news to the shepherds, and the wise men who have come from the depths of the East to venerate the newborn Christ. Angels and men, united for the first time, glorify and venerate He who, with his birth, unites earth and heaven. At this blessed moment, near the baby Jesus have gathered some humble and simple shepherds and some wise rulers who have abandoned everything and have entrusted their lives to the God-man. Those whose hearts are totally given over to material goods, vain glory and the pleasures of this world do not have a place near Christ.

My dear brothers and sisters,

The icon of the Christmas feast also represents an icon of His Church. Christ is the head and the foundation of the Church. The Mother of God is the spiritual Mother and protector of all Christians. The bishops and the priests are those who protect the people of God from fallacy and spiritual dangers, teach the joyful message of Salvation, and transfer sanctifying grace through the Mysteries. The members of the Church are all those who humbly and with faith have accepted Christ in their lives, and who transfigure their lives in accordance with His teaching, and who follow the difficult path of sacrificial love.

Our Savior Lord Jesus Christ has counted us worthy to be members of His Church. Therefore, let us offer to Him today thanksgiving and glory and, through our words and deeds, and rejoicing in our hearts, let us proclaim the joyful message to the ends of the earth:

Christ is born, give glory!

Christ comes from heaven, go to meet him!

Christ is upon earth, be exalted!

Sing to the Lord all the earth;

and all you peoples raise the hymn with joy,

for he has been glorified.

I wish you all a blessed and joy-filled Christmas. May our Lord bless your families and the works of your hands and grant to you health, love and peace.

With my best wishes and paternal love,

† Nektarios

Metropolitan of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia