Christmas Greetings of Bishop Seppo Häkkinen of the Mikkeli Diocese of The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland for Bishop Ivan Laptev
To Bishop Ivan Laptev
Dear Brother in Christ,
The first impression of the Nativity night was shocking. “The shepherds were filled with great fear,” says the Evangelist Luke. The shepherds were used to extraordinary situations in their work. However, what they experienced during that night in Bethlehem outmatched everything they had experienced before: they were literally paralyzed.
Fear is a natural feeling that helps cope with an experience. It helps prepare for dangerous situations. Fear can be necessary in order to protect oneself from many dangers. It can help attain carefulness, responsibility, and wisdom which are so necessary in daily life. However, fear can also impoverish a person’s life, stripping them of courage and the joy of living.
The insecurity and anxiety resulting from the coronavirus pandemic deprived us of our shared impressions during this expiring year. Many are wondering, “How am I feeling? Am I going to stay well? What if my loved ones fell ill?” Others are pondering, “Am I going to be fired (sent on compulsory leave)? Am I going to keep my job? What’s going to happen to my income?”
The future of society remains uncertain. How are we as a nation going to handle the pandemic and its consequences? Is the social gap going to get deeper? What’s going to happen to medical services, employment, economic life, and environmental capacity?
The global causes of concern have not disappeared. Climate change, reduction of diversity in nature, international confrontation, violence, and terrorism make for constant insecurity.
In the Nativity Gospel text, the Angel first needed to speak to the shepherds gently and soothingly, “Fear not.” Those two words seem especially relevant this Christmas.
If we let fear control our hearts and minds, we’d be in big trouble. We would lose the essence of our own self, harden our hearts toward our neighbors, and lose hope.
The Angel’s message was proclaimed for the shepherds of Bethlehem and for us. The Nativity message is love that is stronger than any forces.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 Jn. 4:18). We are safe for unto us is born a Savior, Jesus Christ.
On the Feast of the Nativity, 2020
Bishop Seppo Häkkinen