Greeting by His Excellency,
Archbishop Dr Nikola Eterović,
to the Angel Tree 2021 of the
Ambassador Club e.V. at the Westin Grand Hotel
Berlin, 16th December 2021
Excellencies, distinguished colleagues,
Dear Dr. h.c. Mania Feilcke-Dierck
Dear Director Hattenberger,
Ladies and Gentlemen!
In Bethlehem, on that very Christmas night, the shepherds were camping with their flocks and keeping watch. When the angel burst upon them with his heavenly splendour, these simple people of little social standing were frightened. But the heavenly messenger announced to them the great joy: “Today in the city of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Christ, the Lord" (Lk 2:11).
It is part of God's pedagogy to make great things visible through simple signs. Therefore, the angel told them that they would find the Child wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger (cf. Lk 2:12). The shepherds, who were something like the heroes of everyday life, understood this. They set out and went to see what they had been told. “They went in haste and found Mary and Joseph and the child lying in a manger” (Lk 2:16).
Now, the Westin Grand Berlin is not exactly a simple stable or a cave with a manger, but rather one of the most prestigious hotels in the city of Berlin. What is more, it is not shepherds, living somewhere far away, who have gathered at this hour in this beautiful place, but Representatives of the sovereign States of the world. Moreover, we have not come here at the behest of an angel, but at the invitation of the venerable Ambassadors’ Club for all Ambassadors accredited in Germany. Unfortunately, due to the Corona pandemic, we can only meet in small numbers. Nevertheless, it is good that this celebration can take place, even in this difficult situation.
The Angel Tree, that beautiful custom of placing Christmas presents under a Christmas tree, in a way imitates the gift of Jesus’ birth and the manger. The most beautiful gift that human beings can ever receive is love. It is not just feelings and words, but rather deeds and truth. The shepherds were granted the grace to behold the ultimate gift of God’s love for humankind, when they saw before their very own eyes the Holy Infant in swaddling clothes and were even allowed to touch the Child, provided, of course, that the Blessed Virgin Mary allowed them to do so. Our Christmas gifts, therefore, should somehow reflect that very love we feel for the people around us.
The Angel Tree is a radiantly beautiful tree. Its lights illuminate the room and warm the hearts. Under this very tree, which is now truly becoming a Christmas tree, a radiant gift of love, there are gifts for children who are ill, treated and cared for by the doctors and nurses at the Charité Sana children's clinic in Berlin-Lichtenberg. Our heartfelt greetings and sincere thanks go, therefore, first and foremost to all of them.
As the Patron of this year’s Angel Tree, I would particularly like to greet the children with all my heart and promise my prayers for their recovery. To the doctors and nurses, I am grateful for their dedication, which comparable to that of shepherds: caring, watching day and night, doing what is needed and beyond what is required. Their sacrifices often go unnoticed and are not always recognised or appreciated. The shepherds could tell a thing or two about that. Hospital staff belongs to the heroines and heroes of our daily lives. Thank you!
The gifts under this Angel Tree are chosen according to the needs of the children, by assessing what is required to lift up their spirits, to comfort them and to give them joy. To see the joyous radiance in eyes of children is to experience the real Christmas. It is a gift that no money or power can ever buy. Children are worth all the effort.
Finally, I greet you all with a thought that I think would fit well with this year’s Angel Tree 2021, as we express our Christmas wishes to each other: “Do as God does, become human”! ‘We all are for each other not only the givers and receivers of the gift, but also the very gift itself. Thank you.