Christmas arrived early to a handful of young people in New Britain, Connecticut as St. Nersess Armenian Seminary brought fellowship, discussion and gifts to young people of the community.
Last Wednesday evening, December 7, Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian, St. Nersess Director of Youth and Vocations, visited the Holy Resurrection Armenian Church community. He led a discussion on the theme "Birthdays, Gifts and Jesus Christ" in the cozy New England home of Fr. Kapriel and Yn. Diane Mouradjian. Fr. Kapriel is a recent alumnus of St. Nersess who was recently ordained to the priesthood in New Britain.
Surrounded by lit candles, delicious food and a festive Christmas tree, Fr. Kapriel set the stage for the evening by explaining that Christmas is a time for family and a time to experience God's love. He further noted that the church is another type of family that God gives us and through the church we experience God's love.
Fr. Kapriel read a passage from the Gospel according to Luke as the springboard for the evening's discussion:
And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord [Luke 2:8-14]."
After reading about the story of Jesus' birth, everyone had the opportunity to share experiences about their own birthdays and family celebrations. Thinking about their own lives, the young people shared stories that had been passed down by their family. Fr. Stepanos then asked each person to share with the group the most memorable birthday gift he or she had ever received. Fr. Stepanos drew a parallel to the birth of Jesus Christ, and showed how this is truly a great gift for each of us.
Donna Vernali Masarjian was excited to bring her 11 year old daughter to the evening gathering. She has been trying to find ways to bring back the meaning of Christ's birth into her family's life. "Life is a miracle and God's greatest gift of all," she said. "During this Christmas season let us look at each person as that special gift from God and than we will be able to find Jesus Christ at the center of the celebration."
Stephanie Davootian, a veteran of the St. Nersess Summer conferences, observed, "It is difficult to always keep Jesus Christ at the forefront of Christmas. Yet, through this type of discussion, I can find ways to stay focused and realize the gift of life that God gives each of us."
Another veteran of the summer conferences, Mitchell Mouradjian, noted that the discussion was helpful to him and found it to be a "good" evening.
Everyone left the Mouradjian with gifts from St. Nersess: St. Nersess tee shirts, sweatshirts, pens and prayer books; but also with a renewed appreciation for the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
"Search for ways to find God in each day of the Christmas season," Fr. Stepanos said at the end of the evening. "Even though many around us give such a secular feel to the holidays, God will provide you with opportunities to meet Him."
"And don't forget that St. Nersess is waiting for you next summer," Fr. Stepanos said, giving an open invitation to all the young people to visit St. Nersess to attend the popular summer conferences.