THE EMPTY MANGER
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”(Matthew 25:25-36)
On the occasion of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, spiritual joy blossoms in the hearts of individual Christians. God’s visitation to Mankind with His message of good will, goodness, and peace, opens new horizons for our heavenly and earthly life and our relationship with each other.
Jesus is born again in Bethlehem, proclaiming “Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all.” Once again we, the children of the Armenian Church, travel spiritually to Bethlehem to present our gifts to the infant Lord. How much joy is in our souls because we go to visit Jesus and as pious children of the Armenian Church, faithful to God as His first children, we offer our heartfelt gifts of frankincense, gold, and myrrh. With His birth, Jesus invites all Mankind to belong to Him, to hear His words, to convey His deeds, while also experiencing the suffering and turmoil of those who are deprived, in need, wounded, and grieving. We feel thankful and rewarded because we see our Savior in the manger in Bethlehem with the new announcement of salvation.
We are not alone in our visit. Like many millions of other faithful Christians we take a spiritual pilgrimage to Bethlehem. The tangible love of the infant God must be there in the manger. The joy of the good news of the birth is there for everyone. The angels sing songs of glory and good news, but these days we Armenians hear murmurs of lament and pain, instead of joy. Jesus is not in His manger in Bethlehem. He is in another place, another biblical country. He is in Syria—in Aleppo, Deir Zor, Damascus, Kessab, Kamishli, and other Armenian towns. Leaving the manger empty, Jesus has gone where destruction and death are prevalent, where cries for His help are heard. With the Infant Jesus fixed in our souls, we become witness to the condition of our true kinsmen. We see their terror and hear their sobs. In spite of current helplessness and precarious situations, and in the face of future fear and uncertainty, we beseech Jesus through prayers and supplications, to walk with us in our burned churches, in our damaged sacred memorial in Deir Zor, and in our destroyed schools—our educational fortresses.
Dear Armenian Faithful,
In the midst of every day concerns in America, and joyful surroundings especially during this season of Christmas, perhaps you do not have time to share the pain of our brothers and sisters. Perhaps you are not be able to assess the extent of the danger that threatens our Armenian community in Syria—the community that after the Genocide became the cradle of our rebirth, and the community that remained faithful to its authenticity and preserved the pure Armenian character, cultural values, faith, and language.
Aside from the danger for individuals, there is danger for our nation. Are you prepared to leave your comfortable manger, as Jesus did, and visit them to give bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, care for the wounded, and comfort for the mourner? Yes, you are obligated, because whatever you do for any of them, you have done also for Jesus. Whatever you do for the Armenian community in Syria, you have done for the Armenian people in its entirety.
I wish you joy and happiness for the New Year and the Holy Nativity. May our Lord, Savior, and Miracle Worker bless you and your family. Pray to Him so that the destruction will end, so His boundless love will be injected in the veins of all Mankind, and save us from all evil. It is the time for you to make provision from your charitable gifts for the hungry, the thirsty, the wounded, and the grieving, just as you would want to do for Jesus who has gone to visit and suffer with them.
Armenian Apostolic Church of America
Eastern United States of America
Holy Nativity, 2013