The Incarnation Is an Invitation to Emulate Christ
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14)
As we approach the dawning of a new year and prepare to welcome the Birth and Theophany of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into our hearts and souls, we give thanks and praise to Almighty God for the gift of another year and most especially for the indescribable gift of His Only-Begotten Son Who, in the words of St. Athanasius the Great, “became man that man might become God.”
After the fall of Adam and Eve, man, who was created in the image of God, was separated from God spiritually. At the appointed time God became incarnate, took on the form of man, for our redemption and salvation. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). Jesus came forth from God so that we could know of and experience God’s nature and will. Jesus was born so that we might know the extent of God’s love. He came to live among man to be a model of holiness and by example to show the way to live in a way that is pleasing to God.
In a humble manger in Bethlehem centuries ago, Jesus was born into this world as the heavenly host proclaimed “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14), shepherds came to adore him, and magi came to praise Him bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Each year on Christmas we celebrate not only the actual Birth of Jesus, we celebrate the true meaning and message of Christmas, the Incarnation. On that silent and holy night, God became man. He humbled Himself and became like us so that we could become more like Him.
Why did Jesus come in human form? We know that in Old Testament times men feared God, trembling when they heard His voice and saw His holiness with their own eyes. Christ came as man, in the same form as us, so that man could come near to Him, “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17) To truly represent mankind, to become our substitute and open the way for our salvation, Jesus had to become man to experience all that we experience and to share in the same conditions as humanity.
Jesus became incarnate so that we may be sanctified, and He sanctified us by paying the penalty for our sins and covering us in His righteousness. He came to transform us and give us a life that we could not achieve on our own, the fullness of a life with God. He came to reconcile us with God and restore us in the image of God. Whoever receives Him receives a new life as a child of God.
God became man so that we could become more God-like, not in the literal sense but by following in His example. To follow in the ideal example set forth by our Lord Jesus Christ is to be a person willing to put others before ourselves. It is goodwill and charity; charity not only as alms-giving, but as agape love. Jesus taught that love of God and neighbor is the greatest commandment, and that love distinguishes His followers, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will known that you are My disciples, if your have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35).
Charity is an essential component of our faith. It is not a duty or obligation, rather an expression of brotherly love and compassion. God’s immense love and compassion for mankind, evidenced by the Birth and later crucifixion of His Son, is the ideal that we must all strive to emulate by being generous to our fellow man. We cannot profess ourselves true Christians if we are not expressing God’s love to our neighbor. “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” (1 John 2:6) As children of God created in His image, we cannot stand by and let our fellow child of God go without if we have the means to help. We must radiate His love through our interactions with others and through our goodwill and good deeds.
As the popular saying goes, “Charity begins at home”. As Armenians, we belong to our individual families but we also belong to a larger family, a family whose members are scattered throughout Armenia, Artsakh and Diaspora communities across the globe but who are always near in spirit. As faithful Christians, we must all feel a sense of Christian charity and brotherly kindness towards each and every member of our family, and especially to those in crisis such as the Syrian-Armenian community. The civil strife in Syria rages on to the great detriment of innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. As winter sets in, the harsh conditions will only worsen and the need for aid will greatly increase. Christmas is one of the most joyous days of the year. Sadly, for our brethren in Syria and for millions of others around the world, the Christmas cheer is dampened by their circumstances. As we thank God and enjoy the abundance of blessings in our lives this Christmas season, let us do our part as true Christians and lift the spirits of the less fortunate by sharing our blessings and love and spreading Christmas cheer to as many people as we can.
The spirit of Christmas is all around us. Joy is in the air, hearts are a little warmer, spirits a little brighter. But Christmas is not just one day for families and friends to come together to share a meal and exchange presents. Christmas is love, caring, and sharing. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16), that is the real gift of Christmas. May we sing praises to God each and every day of the year for the gift of the Incarnation of His Son, and may we proclaim the essence of Christmas in our lives daily as we strive to walk in the way of our Lord and bear witness to His love and mercy through our charity and compassion for one another.
On the joyous occasion of the New Year and the glorious Birth and Revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, we extend our greetings and felicitations to our clergy, councils, parishes, schools, committees, and faithful parishioners, praying that 2014 is a blessed year filled with the love, peace, and joy of God.
Happy New Year
Christ is Born and Revealed
Blessed is the Revelation of Christ
Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian
Prelate, Western United States
New Year and Christmas 2014