On the night of the Child, during the Midnight Christmas Mass celebrated in St Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis spoke about the children who suffer today.
This night of Christmas, a “night of glory”, of “light and joy”,
because God is “with us” is an invitation to be challenged by the Child
in the Manger, a night “also allow ourselves to be challenged by the
children of today’s world, who are not lying in a cot caressed with the
affection of a mother and father, but rather suffer the squalid ‘mangers
that devour dignity’: hiding underground to escape bombardment, on the
pavements of a large city, at the bottom of a boat overladen with
immigrants. Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by the children who
are not allowed to be born, by those who cry because no one satiates
their hunger, by those who do have not toys in their hands, but rather
Today, as in Jesus’s times, “If we want to celebrate Christmas
authentically, we need to contemplate this sign: the fragile simplicity
of a small newborn, the meekness of where he lies, the tender affection
of the swaddling clothes. God is there.
“With this sign the Gospel reveals a paradox: it speaks of the
emperor, the governor, the mighty of those times, but God does not make
himself present there; he does not appear in the grand hall of a royal
palace, but in the poverty of a stable; not in pomp and show, but in the
simplicity of life; not in power, but in a smallness which surprises.
In order to discover him, we need to go there, where he is: we need to
bow down, humble ourselves, make ourselves small. The Child who is born
challenges us: he calls us to leave behind fleeting illusions and go to
the essence, to renounce our insatiable claims, to abandon our endless
dissatisfaction and sadness for something we will never have. It will
help us to leave these things behind in order to rediscover in the
simplicity of the God-child, peace, joy and the meaning of life.
“The mystery of Christmas, which is light and joy, questions and
unsettles us, because it is at once both a mystery of hope and of
sadness. It bears within itself the taste of sadness, inasmuch as love
is not received, and life discarded. This happened to Joseph and Mary,
who found the doors closed, and placed Jesus in a manger, ‘because there
was no place for them in the inn’ (v. 7). Jesus was born rejected by
some and regarded by many others with indifference. Today also the same
indifference can exist, when Christmas becomes a feast where the
protagonists are ourselves, rather than Jesus; when the lights of
commerce cast the light of God into the shadows; when we are concerned
for gifts but cold towards those who are marginalized.
“Yet Christmas has essentially a flavour of hope because,
notwithstanding the darker aspects of our lives, God’s light shines out.
His gentle light does not make us fear; God who is in love with us,
draws us to himself with his tenderness, born poor and fragile among us,
as one of us. He is born in Bethlehem, which means ‘house of bread’. In
this way he seems to tell us that he is born as bread for us; he enters
life to give us his life; he comes into our world to give us his love.
He does not come to devour or to command but to nourish and to serve.
Thus there is a direct thread joining the manger and the cross, where
Jesus will become bread that is broken: it is the direct thread of love
which is given and which saves us, which brings light to our lives, and
peace to our hearts.”