Christmas Encyclical of Metropolitan Gerasimos

"And suddenly there was with the Angel a multitude
of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,
goodwill toward men.'"  

Luke 2:13 - 14
Dearly Beloved,
When the Birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was announced to the shepherds, the heavenly messengers proclaimed a new vision for humanity. The birth of the Messiah would inaugurate an era of peace instead of violence, and harmony instead of division.

The people were looking for new signs of hope. They needed change from the poverty and oppression under which they suffered. The shepherds, representing all ordinary people, sought out the Child and went and worshipped Him in Bethlehem. The Magi, representing the intellectuals of the day, saw the star in the heavens announcing that a new King had been born, and they too sought out the Child. When the shepherds and the Magi found Him, they encountered this new vision for their lives: Jesus Christ, the Son of Mary, and "we beheld His glory. . . full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)

What glory could be found in a newborn child surrounded by animals and resting in a manger? What vision did they receive from a child? A vision of God's love and compassion. A vision of humility and service. This new vision opened their eyes to new realities, new possibilities for all humanity. Yet, the myopia of power and profit was threatened by God's message of peace and goodwill. King Herod sought to destroy the Child, but God's messengers thwarted his plans. Was it ever realistic to think that those who sought only to enhance power and prestige would respond positively to a message of God's love, humility and service? The Word had become flesh. He had entered history and overturned everything. And as we learn from the Gospels, Jesus proclaimed the Good News, that the "Kingdom of God was at hand". (Mark 1:14)
We, today's followers of Jesus Christ, the Son of Mary, still hear the message of the angels to the shepherds and are called to share this Good News with all. We have been told to seek the Child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger and offer Him gifts. You will find Him in your parish and especially in the Holy Eucharist. Your charitable deeds, from donations to community service, are the gifts He seeks.
We have been called to continue His work in the world, the work He began in Bethlehem, of building His Kingdom of peace and goodwill for all people, not just a privileged few. This is the work that begins in our homes and among our families, but extends to all we meet in our daily lives, chiefly in the way we treat one another. When we reach out to others, especially the poor, the disabled, the outcast, the lonely, and extend our hands to them in friendship, respect and kindness, the kingdom of God becomes visible, "on earth as it is in heaven."
May the Good News proclaimed by the angels fill your hearts. May its promise bring hope and joy to you and your loved ones on this Christmas Day, and throughout the coming New Year.
With Love in the Newborn King,
@ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco