The Christmas Message of the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches of Jerusalem – 2021
And the angel said to them, “Fear not; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy
which will come to all the people . . .” (Luke 2:10)
We, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, greet you in the same spirit with which the angel greeted the shepherds on Christmas Eve: a spirit of joy and hopeful expectation. As the angel went on to say, “for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). This blessed event in Bethlehem is precisely what we celebrate each year at Christmas.
We celebrate because this was a singular and momentous birth. This was the Nativity of “the Word made flesh”—the Son of God himself born among his people in order to bring them the hope of salvation in the midst of a world enslaved to sin and subject to evil and death. As the Apostle Peter would later write, “your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8b).
Many have been so devoured over these past two years since the pandemic first struck our world. Millions have suffered severe illness, crippling economic hardship, and indeed, death itself. As a result, fear and despondency have gripped the hearts of countless throngs across the globe.
In the midst of this ongoing crisis, the angel’s message of hope is one the people of the world still desperately need to hear. The star that guided the Magi to Bethlehem must once again lead us to the manger. There, as we gaze upon the beatific vision of Christ’s Nativity, each of us are invited to bow down in reverence, beholding and accepting with gratitude the gift of God’s Son, Jesus, the one promised to “save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21b).
Those Christians remaining in the Holy Land, following in the footsteps of Christ, like their ancestors, continue to bear constant witness to this and other sacred mysteries. Since the foundation of the Church, they have together served as the “Living Stones,” offering their testimonies alongside the ancient stones of the holy places.
As such, we ask members of the worldwide Church for their prayers and support on their behalf, as these beloved sisters and brothers in Christ now represent less than two percent of the total population of the Holy Land, and they face many hardships, particularly as a result of the pandemic. At the same time, especially in view of the new omicron variant, we strongly encourage these indigenous Christians and all persons to receive the recommended COVID-19 vaccinations in order to protect themselves from infection and help bring this crisis to an end.
In this regard, we were heartened by the recent, albeit brief opening of Israel’s borders, allowing Christian pilgrims to return to the Holy Land after a long absence. It is our hope that circumstances will allow these borders to soon reopen so that we might again welcome these devout followers of Christ, especially with the approach of Christmas. Their return would not only help to deepen their devotion to our Lord, but also strengthen the Christian presence in Bethlehem and throughout this land where Christ was first made manifest to the world.
In closing, we bid all people of goodwill to pray for a just and lasting peace in this, our Lord’s native land, during this time when Christians around the world rejoice at the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given … and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God … Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:6).
—The Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem