The Star Of Bethlehem Leads Us To The Perfect Gift
At the brink of a new year, our hearts and souls abound with joy as we welcome the year 2012 with renewed hopes inspired by the enlivening messages of the Glorious Nativity and Theophany of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Glory to God for blessing us with another year to celebrate the miraculous Birth of our Savior; “A new King is born in Bethlehem, sons of man bless him, for He was incarnated for us” (Hymn). Born of a Holy Birth, the Son of Man was sent to this earth with a life-saving and life-giving mission. It was a most blessed and divine gift, and the greatest expression of the unbound love of God towards man.
Throughout the Bible, there is evidence of the great generosity of God towards His creation. The gift of His Son, our Lord Savior Jesus Christ, is however the ultimate gift of love and sacrifice, and must be the focus of our Christmas celebrations. During this time of the year, most people are preoccupied with giving and receiving gifts, and a great deal of time, energy, and resources are spent on finding that perfect gift. Rather than focusing on the material, let us take this time to reflect on the greatest gift of all, and with utmost gratitude let us thank God “for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).
On a cold winter’s night in a humble manger centuries ago, the perfect gift was presented to mankind, the gift of salvation and eternal life in Jesus Christ. Man had strayed and was so lost in a sea of sin that God made the ultimate sacrifice to save us. Man did not know that he needed redemption and salvation; he did not ask God for help and for His gift. It is God who foresaw our need and sent His only Begotten Son for the absolution of our sins. How blessed we truly are that though we did not ask for it, God provided the way for our salvation. Furthermore, God sent us His Gift not because we were worthy or had earned it, but because we were in such desperate need of it. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God saved us not because we were good or worthy, but because of His mercy.
The gift of Jesus Christ was not presented with pomp. On the contrary, the gift was wrapped in humble swaddling clothes and lying in a humble manger. And the first to receive news of the gift were the humble shepherds who were tending to their flock in their fields. The bright star of Bethlehem illuminated the night sky and became the guiding light for the wise men, leading them to the manger. From the beginning of time, God had promised the Messiah. The star of Bethlehem announced the fulfillment of this promise, the coming of the promised Messiah. The Holy Family was complete; the family that would become the ideal example of humility and faith.
The real message and spirit of Christmas is far from the gifts under the Christmas tree. It is a reminder of the gift that God has given to each and every one of us. It is the only gift that keeps on giving forever, a lifetime with God. It is the only gift we need and the only gift that truly changes our lives. Many of the gifts we receive at Christmas, birthdays, or other occasions may become obsolete; the gift of the Nativity does not. It is now 2012 years after His Birth and His gift of salvation and eternal life is as current as it was on that first Christmas. He is the same today to those who trust Him as Savior as He was over two thousand years ago. It is a gift not of temporary happiness and excitement, but one that gives us eternal happiness and hope, His presence in our lives always.
The gift, the salvation that Jesus Christ offers, is available to all who are willing to confess their sin and confess their belief in Him. Just as you must accept and claim a gift for it to be yours, so too must we accept God’s gift for it to be ours. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Claiming our gift means to admit that we are sinners, accept our wrongdoings, and welcome Him into our hearts as our only Lord and Savior. Receiving this greatest of gifts means repenting and trusting Him to forgive and cleanse us. It is a gift we receive by faith and not deeds. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
In the midst of our celebrations, as we give and exchange presents, let us always be mindful that it is the Birth of our Lord that we are celebrating and that we have already received the perfect gift, the gift of life. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). The more we embrace this perfect gift, the more meaningful and happy our lives become.
As we celebrate the Birth of our Savior this Christmas, let us give praise and glory to God for His indescribable gift and like the wise men, make the star of Bethlehem the guiding light of our lives and fall down in worship for our Lord Jesus Christ. And let us spread the Christmas cheer and spirit by sharing this gift with those around us each day of our lives and foster the spirit of love, joy, peace, harmony, and goodwill throughout the year.
With these thoughts, with paternal love and spiritual joy we greet our Clergy, Councils, Schools and educators, sister organizations, faithful parishioners, sponsors and friends, wishing that the timeless and inspiring message and spirit of the Glorious Nativity and Theophany of our Lord Jesus Christ enlivens our hearts and spirits and emboldens us each day of our lives, guiding our path of goodwill and service to our Lord, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Armenian nation, and the Armenian people. May Almighty God continue to grace us with His bountiful blessings and keep us in peace all the days of our lives.
A happy and blessed New Year to all
Christ is Born and Revealed
Blessed is the Revelation of Christ
Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian
Prelate, Western United States
New Year 2012