Cardinal Sako’s Message of Christmas (December 25, 2021)
Christmas of Hope
In the midst of our worries about the current political situation fraught with tensions and conflicts; environmental pollution and climate change; the consequences of Corona Pandemic; as well as the challenges posed by the Iraqi elections, Christmas comes this year reminding us powerfully of the message of HOPE, full of peace, fraternity, love, solidarity and God’s blessings. Christmas is a special opportunity to recharge our faith, renew our hope and enthusiasm. The good news of this feast is: “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you news of great joy: Today, a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2/ 10-11). It is an appeal of peace, stability, dignity, reconciliation and of enhancing our fraternal relations.
Christmas intensely signifies God’s presence among us. The birth of Jesus Christ expresses God’s love for people of all nations and cultures, at all times; and also shows His closeness and care about them. Christmas invites us to be opened to the Lord’s presence in order to fill our lives with hope, peace, joy and ultimately to perceive the heavenly kingdom on earth: “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth” (Luke 2/ 14). Let us join Virgin Mary in saying: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1/ 38).
The story of Christmas is the story of God with all His divinity for humankind: grace and blessing; love; fraternity; and fellowship. Don’t we chant in one of the Christmas hymns: “When myself “is melted” into God’s being, I am in Christmas”? Is there a grace greater than this? So, Christmas means that God looks at us to be born from Him (from HIGH) asking everyone to look honestly at others as brothers and partners.
Christmas is the foundation of Christianity and the “heart” of its theology. The starting point is to have Jesus be born in our lives through our prayers, commitment to His teachings, as well as serving others, especially the poorest and those who are fragile, so we can taste the sweetness of our sonship to God and our fraternal relations. Above all, this Christian vision is, an inner spiritual experience that is reflected on the outside and makes Christmas continue in human history. St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (339-397), says: “Every believing soul conceives and gives birth to the Word of God. May the soul of Mary dwell in each of us, to glorify God. If Christ has only one mother according to the flesh, then He remains the fruit of all, according to faith“. When we celebrate the Eucharist (the Mass), isn’t the peak of His presence – amalgamation in receiving the communion with faith, in order to be converted to Him?
Celebrating Christmas every year is a celebration of faith and a return to springs, that enable us to correct the path of important matters in our lives. Also, to handle fraternity, tolerance, peace and mercy with greater awareness and maturity.
So, we must also realize that the concept of the 2nd (eschatological) Coming of Christ, is not related to historical sense of time, but rather to the ongoing reflection of Jesus’ Gospel on our daily lives. Isn’t that the Book of Revelation refers to this ongoing reflection: “Behold, I am standing at the door, knocking. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him…” (Revelation 3/ 20).
Acceptance and rejection remain as it was at Jesus’ time. We do not discover Jesus’ presence by chance, it requires that we search for Him as the shepherds and Magi did, so that every one of us starts his life with Christ passionately and with confidence. Therefore, the Church to which His mission is entrusted, must be translated into the current culture following new methods and an understandable contemporary language, in order to attract people to Christ and His teachings. Such endeavor reflects Church vitality and its loyalty to Christ and to humanity.
Christmas for the world
The world will “rise” when human being listen to his conscience and to the calls of God in respecting others, achieving justice, spreading peace, security and mercy in the whole world, rather than searching for economic and political interests (consummation) only. The West, especially Europe, should not deny that its history is molded by Christian morals and spirituality. Christmas – Hope is a universal human experience that should translate its exalted meanings into public life.
Christmas for Iraq
Christmas remains the HOPE, when the government political and services work, rises to the level of peoples’ aspirations, via a sincere national vision and a courageous dialogue in facing the accumulated crises and complicated problems in favor of security, stability, consolidating democracy, providing services and maintaining the dignity of Iraqis. This HOPE should be interpreted by Iraqis “on the ground” through self-reliance rather than depending on “outside”. Also, by rejecting differences and “breaking” sectarianism in order to consolidate the Iraqi nationality and “join-hands” together to build a civil state, a citizenship state, a state of justice and law, whose citizens experience equality, freedom, etc.
Let us pray for peace and stability in our beloved country, Iraq and the whole world.
Let us radiate values of tolerance, mercy, peace, and fraternity, to live the “glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth”.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary intercede for us.
The last thing to die is HOPE
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year