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Christmas - Natale - Navidad - Noël 2016

Pope Francis' Homily at Midnight Mass on the Solemnity of the Nativity
St Peter's Basilica - in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"“The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all” (Tit 2, 11). The words of the Apostle Paul reveal the mystery of this holy night: the grace of God has appeared, his free gift. In the Child given to us, the love of God is made visible.

It is a night of glory, that glory proclaimed by the angels in Bethlehem and by us in all the world. It is a night of joy, because henceforth and for ever God, the Eternal one, the Infinite one, is God with us: He is not far off, we do not need to search for him in the heavens or in some mystical idea; He is close, He was made man and he will never withdraw from our humanity, which he has made his own. It is a night of light: that light prophesied by Isaiah (cf Is 9, 1), which was to illuminate those who walked in a land of darkness, has appeared and enveloped the shepherds of Bethlehem (cf Lk 2, 9).

The shepherds discover simply that “a child has been born to us” (Is 9, 5) and understand that all this glory, all this joy, all this light, is focused on a single point, the sign that the angel indicated to them: “You will find a child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 2, 12). This is the enduring sign for all who would find Jesus. Not just then, but also today. If we want to celebrate Christmas authentically, we need to contemplate this sign: the frail simplicity of a tiny newborn child, the meekness with which he is placed in a manger, the tender affection with which he is wrapped in his swaddling clothes. Here is God.

And with this sign the Gospel reveals to us a paradox: t speaks of the emperor, the governor, the high and mighty of those times, but God does not make himself present there; He does not appear in the noble hall of a royal palace, but in the poverty of a stable; not in glories of appearance but in the simplicity of life; not in power, but in a littleness that surprises. And in order to meet Him we need to go there, where He is: we need to bow down, to humble ourselves, to make ourselves little. The Child who is born challenges us; He calls us to leave the illusions of the ephemeral so as to go to the essential, to renounce our insatiable pretensions, to abandon perennial dissatisfaction and sadness for some thing that we will always be without. We will do well to leave these things so as to rediscover in the simplicity of the God-Child peace, joy, the luminous meaning of life.

Let us allow the Child in the manger to challenge us, but let us also be challenged by the children who, today, are not nestling in a crib and caressed by the affection of a mother and father, but lying in squalid “mangers of dignity”: in underground shelter so as to escape the bombing, on the pavements of large cities, at the bottom of a boat overloaded with migrants. Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by the children who are not allowed to be born, by those who cry because no one relieves their hunger, by those who do not hold toys in their hands, but weapons.

The mystery of Christmas, which is light and joy, challenges and unsettles us, because it is at the same time a mystery of hope and of sadness. It carries with it a taste of sadness, inasmuch as love is not accepted, life is discarded. Such was what happened to Joseph and Mary, who found 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 with indifference by more. Today too there can be that same indifference, when Christmas becomes a feast where the protagonists are us, rather than Him; when the lights of commerce cast the light of God into the shadows; when we are worried about gifts and remain insensitive to those who are marginalized. This worldliness has taken Christmas hostage; we need to liberate it!

Yet Christmas has above all a taste of hope because, despite our darkness, God’s light shines forth. His gentle light does not frighten us; God, in love with us, attracts us with his tenderness, by being born poor and fragile in our midst, as one of us. He is born in Bethlehem, which means “house of bread”. Thus it seems He wants to tell us that he is born as bread for us; he comes to life so as to give us his life; he comes into our world so as to bring us his love. He does not come to devour and to command, but to nourish and serve. Thus there is a direct thread that connects the manger and the cross, where Jesus will be bread broken: it is the direct thread of love that gives itself and saves us, that gives light to our lives, peace to our hearts.

This was understood, on this night, by the shepherds, who were among the marginalized of those times. But no one is marginalized in the eyes of God and precisely they were the guests at Christmas. Those who were sure of themselves, self-sufficient, were at home with their possessions; the shepherds instead “set out with haste” (cf Lk 2, 16). Tonight let us too be challenged and called by Jesus, let us go to Him with trust, starting from that in which we feel marginalized, starting from our limits, starting from our sins. Let us be touched by the tenderness which saves. Let us draw close to God who makes himself close, let us stop to to look at the crib, let us imagine the birth of Jesus: the light and the peace, the greatest poverty and the rejection. L
et us enter into the true Christmas with the shepherds, let us bring to Jesus that which we are, our marginalizations, our unhealed wounds, our sins. Thus, in Jesus, we will savour the true spirit of Christmas: the beauty of being loved by God. With Mary and Joseph let us stay before the manger, before Jesus who is born as bread for my life. Contemplating his humble and infinite love, let us simply tell him thank you: thank you, because you have done all this for me."

Papa Francesco's Urbi et Orbi Blessing in St Peter's Square
Christmas Day, Sunday 25 December 2016 - in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Christmas!
Today the Church once more experiences the wonder of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and the shepherds of Bethlehem, as they contemplate the newborn Child laid in a manger: Jesus, the Saviour.

On this day full of light, the prophetic proclamation resounds:
“For to us a child is born,
To us a son is given.
And the government will be upon his shoulder;
and his name will be called
“Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Is 9, 6)

The power of this Child, Son of God and Son of Mary, is not the power of this world, based on might and wealth; it is the power of love. It is the power that created the heavens and the earth, and gives life to all creation: to minerals, plants and animals. It is the force that attracts man and woman, and makes them one flesh, one single existence. It is the power that gives new birth, forgives sin, reconciles enemies, and transforms evil into good. It is the power of God. This power of love led Jesus Christ to strip himself of his glory and become man; it led him to give his life on the cross and to rise from the dead. It is the power of service, which inaugurates in our world the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice and peace.

For this reason, the birth of Jesus was accompanied by the angels’ song as they proclaimed: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” (Lk 2, 14).

Today this message goes out to the ends of the earth to reach all peoples, especially those scarred by war and harsh conflicts that seem stronger than the yearning for peace.

Peace to men and women in the war-torn land of Syria, where far too much blood has been spilled. Particularly in Aleppo, the site of horrendous fighting in recent weeks, it is most urgent that, in respect for humanitarian law, assistance and support be guaranteed to the sorely-tried civilian population, who continue to live in desperate straits and immense suffering and need. It is time for weapons to be still forever, and the international community to seek actively a negotiated solution, so that civil coexistence can be restored in the country.

Peace to the women and men of the beloved Holy Land, the land chosen and favoured by God. May Israelis and Palestinians have the courage and determination to write a new page of history, where hate and revenge give way to the will to build together a future of mutual understanding and harmony. May Iraq, Libya and Yemen – whose peoples suffer war and the brutality of terrorism – be able once again to find unity and concord.

Peace to the men and women in various parts of Africa, especially in Nigeria, where fundamentalist terrorism exploits even children in order to perpetrate horror and death. Peace in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, so that divisions may be healed and all people of good will may strive to undertake the path of development and sharing, preferring the culture of dialogue to the mindset of conflict.

Peace to women and men who to this day suffer the consequences of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, where there is urgent need for a common desire to bring relief to the civil population and to put into practice the commitments which have been assumed.

We implore harmony for the dear people of Colombia, which seeks to embark on a new and courageous path of dialogue and reconciliation. May such courage also motivate the beloved country of Venezuela to undertake the necessary steps to put an end to current tensions, and build together a future of hope for the whole population.

Peace to all who, in different areas, are enduring sufferings due to constant dangers and persistent injustice. May Myanmar consolidate its efforts to promote peaceful coexistence and, with the assistance of the international community, provide necessary protection and humanitarian assistance to all those so gravely and urgently in need of it. May the Korean peninsula see the tensions it is experiencing overcome in a renewed spirit of collaboration.

Peace to all who have been injured or have suffered the loss of a loved one due to the brutal acts of terrorism that have sown fear and death in the heart of many countries and cities. Peace – not merely the word, but real and concrete peace – to our abandoned and excluded brothers and sisters, to those who suffer hunger and to all the victims of violence. Peace to exiles, migrants and refugees, to all those who in our day are subject to human trafficking. Peace to the peoples who suffer because of the economic ambitions of a few, because of sheer greed and the idolatry of money, which leads to slavery. Peace to those affected by social and economic unrest, and to those who endure the consequences of earthquakes or other natural catastrophes.

And peace to the children, on this special day on which God became a child, above all those deprived of the joys of childhood because of hunger, wars or the selfishness of adults.

Peace on earth to men and women of goodwill, who work quietly and patiently each day, in their families and in society, to build a more humane and just world, sustained by the conviction that only with peace is there the possibility of a more prosperous future for all.

Dear brothers and sisters,
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given”: he is the “Prince of peace”. Let us welcome him!"

After the Blessing

"To you, dear brothers and sisters, who have gathered in this Square from every part of the world, and to those in various countries who are linked to us by radio, television and other means of communication, I offer my greeting.

On this day of joy, we are all called to contemplate the Child Jesus, who gives hope once again to every person on the face of the earth. By his grace, let us with our voices and our actions give witness to solidarity and peace. Merry Christmas to all!