Christmas Message by Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy of Kyiv and All Ukraine to the archpastors, pastors, monastics and all the faithful children of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
I extend my cordial greetings to all of you, God-loving archpastors and pastors, devout monks and nuns, dear brothers and sisters, on the great Feast of the Nativity according to the flesh of our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The Nativity of Christ is a great Feast filled with silent joy brought to earth by great God’s love. God is love (1 John 4, 8), love filled with peace, joy and blessedness. One of the characteristics of God’s love is the fact that love cannot be confined in itself, love is always open, it wants others to be partakers of its blessedness. It is for that that God’s love created man: God, our Creator and Maker, wanted us, people, to become partakers of that blessedness, joy and peace which God’s nature is filled with.
A great extent of God’s love was gifted to man when he was created, for the Lord not only created man and breathed into his face the breath of life, but also beautified man with His Divine image. But an even greater extent of God’s love was gifted to man when he was atoned, as for this God, the Almighty Creator and Maker of the world, came to earth and assumed the image of man.
To put it briefly, it can be said that God’s love is greater when atoning man than God’s love when creating man because with the creation of man, earth becomes man, and with the atonement – man becomes God.
Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh (1 Tim. 3, 16). This mystery has happened. How beautiful and bright is the page of the sacred history of the Nativity of Christ! The world lived its usual life, in which there was more lie than truth, more evil than good, in which hatred was respected more than love. The Everlasting God humbly and quietly comes into that vicious world. The Everlasting Son of the Everlasting God the Father is born from Most-Pure Virgin Mary. As the Creator and Master of the whole world, the Lord could have been born in the most luxurious royal chambers, surrounded by the greatest and the strongest of this world, but the Son of God came not to use the achievements of the earthly progress created by the fallen human mind but to bring fallen man back to Paradise. The Lord was born in a poor cave, which was an image of a human soul devastated by sin and turned into a bright palace of the Heavenly King. Holy Angels were flying above the blessed cave and singing a wonderful song: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (Lk. 2, 14).
Shepherds of Bethlehem were the first to receive the news of the coming of God into the world. An Angel of God appeared before them and said: Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger (Lk. 2, 10–12). The shepherds were the first from the earth-born to come to the cave and worship the Infant Christ, telling everything the Angel had let them know.
On the very same day, three kings from the East, who were Magi, that is wise men, came to the blessed cave. The Magi came from different countries, independently of one another. Love to the Truth brought them together through the marvellous star and led them to the Bethlehem Сave. The Magi worshipped the newly-born King of Heaven and earth with reverence and gave Him their gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh (Matt. 2, 11). Gold as a token of the fact that the King of kings (Rev. 17, 14) had come into the world, frankincense as a token of the fact that the high priest of good things to come (Heb. 9, 11) had come into the world, and myrrh as a symbol of the fact that the newly-born Messiah-Christ will save mankind through His life-giving death.
Herod the King, finding out that the King of the Jews, as the Magi called Him, had been born, was troubled and raised his sword to murder the Divine Babe. And fourteen thousand innocent babes died from the hand of evil Herod and became the first martyrs for Christ.
So controversially did this world meet the Nativity of Christ. A similar attitude towards the Nativity of Christ, towards the great Mystery of the coming of God into this world, exists today. Some worship their Saviour and Lord, pray to Him and try to build their lives upon the sacred commandments of Living God. Others put their human wishes higher than God’s laws. Such people often raise swords and kill others for satisfying their ambitions.
Today is a day of peace and God’s good will, and we, Orthodox Christians, humbly worship our Creator and thank Him for the fact that His love has not left us, sinful. We, people, turned away from God, but God did not turn away from us: God came to earth, assumed our human nature, cleansed and sanctified it and returned the lost Paradise to us.
Today we pray for the entire world and for those who are raising swords against us. We beg God to bring them to reason, we beg the Lord for their remembering that we are all children of one God, that God created us not to rob one another and murder one another but to live in peace and in love to God and among each other.
I once again extend my cordial greetings to all of you, dear brothers and sisters, on the feast of the Nativity of Christ. I wish to everybody health and salvation, courage and patience in overcoming hardships of earthly life. May God’s peace and good will fill our land and our lives. May the star of Bethlehem shine above every one of us and help us in the cruel maelstrom of earthly life to find and preserve the Truth, which our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ (John 14, 6) is for us, people.
In Christ we will find that happiness and blessedness which we, everyone in his own way, constantly look for, but which is only where God reigns. Amen.
Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine