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To the Reverend Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese of the West

Dearly beloved:

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”  (Luke 1:30-33)

These words of the Archangel Gabriel, while belonging to our knowledge and celebration of the Annunciation, speak eternal truths about our celebration of the Incarnation of the Son of Mary. The first truth is that the pre-eternal Son of God, existing from before time with the Father and the Spirit, takes His flesh from the Virgin Mary. He took our flesh.

The second eternal truth is that the One who took that flesh from the Virgin Mary is in very fact the Son of God, uniting in Himself the divine nature which He had from the beginning with the human nature in which He humbly clothes Himself. He assumes the fallen human nature completely, so that we can be clothed by Grace with the Divine. “Flesh” seems to be the painful source of so much sin from the beginning, so much corruption. Gluttony, drunkenness, promiscuity, even a disgust for the flesh that God clothed me in — seeking to alter it surgically or hormonally. St. Paul uses the term “flesh” to generally describe the fallenness of our world, and each of us individually. But it is, ironically, precisely “Flesh” that saves us, if we but clothe ourselves in that flesh transfigured by Him.

Our celebration of the Nativity of our Lord is more than a mere remembrance of something that happened more than 2,000 years ago, something for which all of human history had been waiting. It is more than the reduction of this Day to carols, Christmas trees, gross consumerism and even “family.” The celebration is rather the Mystery of God made man, making man a partaker of the Divine. The brokenness, sin and death that consumed the world almost from the beginning in the Fall is made whole again by the Son of God healing creation itself by filling it with Himself. In Christ, there is no death — only Life.

So we have the daily choice — with which flesh do we clothe ourselves? The fallen, corrupt flesh of the “world,” consuming creation and ourselves through a life lived without the vigilance and awareness that Christ has come and offered us a different life? Or the heartfelt and sincere acceptance of the Gift of a flesh made divine through our participation in Him and His Church? Put a little more simply, do we choose Life or Death?

We spend a lot of effort (and money) around “gifts” at this time of the year. May each and every one of us discern, accept and wrap ourselves in the only Gift that matters — the eternal Son of God made Man.

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

In the new-born Child,

Archbishop of San Francisco and the West

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