“…and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)
My beloved children in the Christ-loving Diocese of New York and New England:
Grace to you and peace from God the Father and from His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ our Lord and from the Holy Spirit our comforter.
I wish you all blessings from our Lord during this blessed feast, in which God’s great love is revealed to us through sending His only-begotten Son to save us by the action of the Holy Spirit. His name was Immanuel, which is translated “God with us.”
1) God created us to be with Him
An enigmatic aspect of our Christian understanding of the mystery of God is that He is transcendent yet imminent, uncontainable, and yet He is willing to dwell in each one of us. God created us, not to be distant from Him, but to be close to Him and to have true fellowship with Him. As a loving Father who wants to embrace His children in His Fatherly bosom, God created us in His image in order to enjoy such an intimate relationship with Him. No other creature on earth was granted the dignity of being created in God’s image. Man was meant to appreciate and find delight in being with God; however, man chose to be separated from God by sin.
2) God came to us to be with Him
Yet, God did not abandon us to the end, but in the fullness of time, God sent His only begotten Son to save us. Saint Athanasius says in his masterpiece treatise “On the Incarnation:”
You must understand why it is that the Word of the Father, so great and so high, has been made manifest in bodily form. He has not assumed a body as proper to His own nature, far from it, for as the Word He is without body. He has been manifested in a human body for this reason only, out of the love and goodness of His Father, for the salvation of us men.
By His birth, “life was manifested” (1 John 1:2) and the true light shone upon those who were sitting in darkness and the shadow of death. Our Lord came to be with us, and to dwell in us. This is how close God wants us to be to Him. He condescended and took our humanity in order that He can abide in us and us in Him. Saint Augustine says:
He called out, proclaiming I am the Way and Truth and the Life, nor had I known him as the food which, though I was not yet strong enough to eat it, he had mingled with our flesh, for the Word became flesh so that your Wisdom, through whom you created all things, might become for us the milk adapted to our infancy.
Now it is our choice to choose life and walk in His light, or to remain in the death of sin and walk in the darkness.
3) God wants us to be with Him in eternity
In His prayer on the night of His crucifixion, the Lord Jesus revealed His yearning for us to be with Him: “Father, I desire that they also whom you gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which you have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).
What is eternal life? It is nothing more or less than being with God! Saint John wrote in the book of Revelation: “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.’” (Revelation 21:3).
4) Do we want to be with God?
What is our stance regarding this matter? Do we want to be with Him as He longs to be with us? Do we desire anything besides Him, or can we say with the great prophet David, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides you?” (Psalm 73:25) What is it that is taking us away from Him? What on earth is worth losing a relationship with the Lord? It is a choice that each one of us has to make today. Can I commit and consecrate all my life, all my love, all my heart and mind, all my time, and all my being for Him who loved me first? Trust me when I say to you, my beloved children, there is absolutely no joy away from Him. As Saint Augustine further reminds us, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
God created us in His image. “God is love” (1John 4:8), and those who have tasted Him know His love. We all search for love, but we search for love in the wrong places. Saint Augustine had that experience prior to his repentance. In his Confessions, he says, “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you.”
May He always be the first and last, beginning and end, and may we proclaim with Saint Paul: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
I wish you all a blessed feast of the glorious Nativity. Pray for me.
By God’s grace David, the servant of the Lord’s servants in New York and New England