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Christmas Letter to the Clergy and people of the ICCEC

Christmas is a message of peace, hope, joy, and love. Around the world choirs and congregations will sing along with the angels of Heaven, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth.”

I have been the Senior Pastor of the Cathedral Church of the Intercessor for the past 26 years. (I have ministered at the Church for the past 31 years). For the past 26 years, I have presided at the Festive Christmas Eucharist, which begins at 11 p.m. on December 24th and ends around 12.30 a.m. on December 25th. It is a glorious service. It concludes with Church lights turned off and people holding lighted candles while singing “Silent Night.” As people leave, walking out into the cold night, they are all smiles and wishing each other a Merry Christmas.

I usually drive home alone. Cathy and the rest of my family attend our 5.30 p.m. Christmas Eve Eucharist, which is geared towards families with young children. Here we have a “Christmas Play” and always end up with the children singing “Happy Birthday Jesus.”

Traffic is usually very heavy on Long Island no matter what time of day it is but on Christmas Day at 1 a.m. there are very few cars. It is amazingly quiet. I am always struck by the stillness of the night. I am also struck by the lights on the homes and the lawn decorations that shout out the festive nature of the day. I am aware that most of the people are sleeping knowing that very early in the morning (particularly those with children) there will be all kinds of excitement as gifts are exchanged. I too am longing to go to sleep yet the stillness of the night beckons me to remain away for just a little bit of solitude.

I arrive home usually to a quiet house. It is always in this stillness that the message of “Emmanuel” strikes me the most. God is with us. The God of all creation has taken on our humanity – has become one of us – so that human dignity can be restored to its rightful place. So that all creation can be reconciled to the One who created and sustains it. Our God is the One who has entered into every aspect of our lives and has redeemed it for Himself.

God is still with us in the life of His Body – the Church. God is with us in our weddings, our baptisms, our sufferings, our struggles, and our victories. God is with us as we minister the Good News to others. We see Him confirm His Word with signs and wonders. God is with us in the face of the poor, in the children in need, in the refugees, in the elderly alone in nursing homes. God is in every aspect of our lives. God remains in our humanity while at the same time He has taken our humanity and seated it with Him in the Heavenly realms.

I have heard it said over and over again, How “can we not look into the sky and see the stars or look at the wonder of nature and not believe in God?” I certainly agree, but God is really seen in the faces of everyone around us.

I pray that your Christmas is a time of great joy and fellowship with those you love. I pray you are able to join with your brothers and sisters and celebrate His birth in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I pray that hope is renewed in your heart and that your faith is increased.

I pray that God grant you a moment, in the midst of the “stuff” of a holiday to be still and know that He is God, and that His name is “Emmanuel.”

Under His mercy,

+Craig, Patriarch

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