The celebration of Christmas serves as a reminder that God did not reveal His greatness in a grand spectacle, but rather in the “littleness” of a poor, vulnerable child born in a stable in Bethlehem, Pope Francis said.
“Let us be amazed by this scandalous truth,” the pope said in his homily Dec. 24 as he celebrated the nighttime liturgy.
“The one who embraces the universe needs to be held in another’s arms. The one who created the sun needs to be warmed. Tenderness incarnate needs to be coddled. Infinite love has a tiny heart that beats softly,” he said.
In his homily, the pope began by reflecting on the angel’s announcement of Christ’s birth to shepherds and that the sign they were given was to look for “a child, a baby lying in the dire poverty of a manger.”
Notably, he said, the Gospel reading begins by presenting “the first emperor in all his grandeur,” Caesar Augustus, who ordered a census of the whole world. It then immediately recounts the birth of Jesus who was “wrapped in swaddling clothes, with shepherds standing by.”
“That is where God is, in littleness. This is the message: God does not rise up in grandeur, but lowers Himself into littleness. Littleness is the path that He chose to draw near to us, to touch our hearts, to save us and to bring us back to what really matters,” the pope said.
On Christmas, he added, “all is turned upside down: God comes into the world in littleness. His grandeur appears in littleness.”
Yearning for peace, dialogue
Before giving his Christmas blessing to the city of Rome and to the world, Pope Francis drew attention to the many places around the globe and within human hearts in need of Jesus, the prince of peace.
“In the cold of the night, He stretches out His tiny arms toward us: He is in need of everything, yet He comes to give us everything,” the pope told people gathered in a rain-washed St. Peter’s Square.
“On this festive day, let us implore Him to stir up in the hearts of everyone a yearning for reconciliation and fraternity,” Pope Francis said Dec. 25 before giving his blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world).
Jesus came into the world “like a whisper, like the murmur of a gentle breeze, to fill with wonder the heart of every man and woman who is open to this mystery,” the pope said in his Christmas message.
“The Word became flesh in order to dialogue with us,” he said. “God does not desire to carry on a monologue, but a dialogue. For God Himself — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — is dialogue, an eternal and infinite communion of love and life.” In the form of a prayer to the newborn Lord, Pope Francis pleaded not only for peace between nations at war, but for all the suffering people in the city and the world and for the suffering Earth itself.
“Eternal Word become flesh,” he prayed, “make us attentive to our common home, which is suffering from the carelessness with which we so often treat it. Inspire political leaders to reach effective agreements, so that future generations can live in an environment respectful of life.”