Christmas address by Metropolitan Epifaniy of Kyiv and All Ukraine, to Most Reverend Archpastors, God-loving Shepherds, dignified monks and all Orthodox faithful of Ukraine.
Dear brothers and sisters!
Christ was born!
Every year these days we are again experiencing in a special way an event that took place more than 20 centuries ago. We remember Christmas as a historical fact from the past, but we also restore for ourselves its modern-day reality. Again and again, we repeat the words of the angels first heard by the shepherds in the field near Bethlehem: “Today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord! ” (Luke 2:11).
“Christ is born – praise him, Christ from heaven – meet him” (a heirmos of the 1st song of the festive canon), – sings the Church, celebrating, as if it’s happening right now, not many centuries ago. This might seem as a strange contradiction: Christ was born in ancient times, in a distant land, but at the same time we glorify the news of His Birth every year as a “new joy” that comes here and now.
Let us note that both the content of worship and the pious customs of our nation, dedicated to the celebration of the Nativity of Christ, motivate us to move our thoughts and feelings to the time of the birth of the Son of God. We really feel like we are in the Nativity of Bethlehem, looking at the Infant lying in the manger, at the Blessed Virgin Mary and Her Bridegroom, the righteous Joseph. It is as if we, together with the shepherds, hear angelic choirs praising the birth of the Savior of the world and announcing the restoration of peace between God and mankind. We join in the journey of the Eastern Magi, who follow the wonderful star to honor together with them the born Messiah and to bring Him our own gifts, whatever we can.
Haven’t we mentioned all this last year and before that? Have we not heard from the biblical books of the Old and New Testaments prophecies about the birth of the Son of the Virgin, about the coming of the Savior, the one who will take away the sins of the world, and about the literal fulfillment of these ancient prophecies? We have heard all this many times, we know it all as Christians, but at the same time every year Christmas becomes a “new joy” for us to experience its modern-day relevance, to pass through time and space that separate us from evangelical events and realize that the meaning and significance of the Nativity of Christ are not lost in ancient times, but remain forever relevant. After all, we celebrate not just the birth of another person, no matter how prominent and world-famous he is, but we celebrate the Nativity of the Son of God, who also becomes the Son of Man.
We honor the Eternal God, who for our salvation becomes like us in everything, taking upon Himself “our infirmities and carried our diseases” (Isa. 53: 4) to heal them, as the prophet Isaiah foretold. We worship the One who not only was, but is, because He is not subject to time and space, eternal and omnipresent. With thoughts and feelings we overcome space and time, turning to the past, but because of our faith, Christmas also overcomes the distance toward us, becoming the reality of the present. That’s because it is not just an occasion to distract us from daily worries, to celebrate with family and friends, not just an opportunity for gifts and congratulations. All this we can see in any human holiday. The celebration and praise of the Nativity of Christ is much greater because in fact it renews in us the awareness of the reality of all that God has done for our salvation.
The child in the manger – Christ, who came from heaven – calls us to get renewed and to change. When we hear the news of Christmas, we must no longer remain ignorant, the ones who have celebrated and then forgotten about it right away, the ones for whom the meaning of the celebration is limited to the festive table, gifts, and entertainment.
By coming into the world, God changed our reality. This has already happened, and it does not depend on us. However, it is up to each individual to choose the way to respond to the news of Christ’s birth. Are we in a hurry to the nativity scene with the shepherds and magi to glorify the Newborn, or are we in a rush with Herod to reject Him, to forget Him, because He destroys the sin to which we have grown accustomed? Do we bring gifts of love and good works through which we acknowledge the Son of the Virgin of the Eternal God, the Infant, the Savior of the world and the promised Messiah, or do we just enjoy yet another occasion to exchange gifts on Christmas?
The answer to the call depends only on us. Moreover, it is impossible to give this answer only once, because it needs to be renewed daily, in our choices as we decide whether to act according to God’s law or succumb to the power of sin. That is why, every year, through the celebration of the Nativity of Christ, we renew our awareness of the divine presence, our knowledge of the truth, our understanding of our duty to the born Son of God.
Dear brothers and sisters!
I hope that the realization of the eternal significance of the Nativity of Christ will motivate us to pious reflections and actions not only during a holiday period, but throughout our lives, and will bear good fruit.
As the Primate of the local Ukrainian Orthodox Church, I sincerely wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Although it’s for the eighth year that Ukraine has been forced to live repelling aggression and although for two years our country and all mankind have been troubled by the trials of the pandemic, nothing can take away from us the great, extraordinary joy that the news of the birth of the Son of God brings to this world.
As we celebrate, we cannot forget those who give us peace of mind and the opportunity to gather at the Christmas table – our soldiers who protect Ukraine from the visible enemy, the invasion of foreigners, as well as the doctors and medics who are fighting for our physical health. Let us remember them in our prayers and ask for God to protect and care for them.
Let us also remember our brothers and sisters who are forced to celebrate holidays in captivity in the occupied Ukrainian lands. Let us remember the captives and those unjustly held, and ask the Lord for their protection and speedy release. We believe that with God’s help and through united efforts we will achieve the liberation of Donbas and Crimea, we will achieve victory in the struggle for truth and just peace.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to the President, the Government, the Parliament of Ukraine, the leaders of local communities, and all those who are called to work for the benefit of the Ukrainian people and serve them. May the Lord inspire you with wisdom and help you in your good deeds!
On these holidays we will thank the Lord for all His good deeds shown to us, to the Church, and to Ukraine. May God help us to further strengthen the single local autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine, tackling divisions and misunderstandings among fellow believers, and give strength and wisdom to the Ukrainian nation to maintain unity and social peace, resist the aggressor, and achieve victory.
Whatever the external circumstances and wherever you celebrate this year, may the joy of Christmas fill your hearts to drive away worries and sorrows, and may the light of the Star of Bethlehem point to the Son of God, reminding you that the Messiah, the Savior, came into this world, bringing us the light of the truth and hope, and that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1: 5).
CHRIST WAS BORN! LET’S PRAISE HIM!
Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine, Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine
God’s year 2021/2022