FULL TEXT - Pope Francis' Christmas Homily "The Christmas manger, the first message of an infant God, tells us that he is with us, he loves us, he seeks us." + VIDEO

Vatican Basilica
Saturday, December 24, 2022
The Vatican released that the Christmas Eve Mass had about 7,000 people in attendance.
What does this night still say to our lives? Two millennia after the birth of Jesus, after many Christmases celebrated with decorations and gifts, after so much consumerism that has wrapped up the mystery we celebrate, there is a risk: we know many things about Christmas, but we forget its meaning. So, how to rediscover the meaning of Christmas?

And above all, where to go to look for it? The Gospel of the birth of Jesus seems to have been written for this very reason: to take us by the hand and lead us back to where God wants. We follow the Gospel.
In fact, it begins with a situation similar to ours: everyone is busy and busy with an important event to celebrate, the great census, which required many preparations. In this sense, the climate back then was similar to the one that envelops us today at Christmas. But the story of the Gospel distances itself from that mundane scenario: it soon "detaches" the image to go and frame another reality, on which it insists. He dwells on a small, seemingly insignificant object that he mentions three times and on which the protagonists of the story converge: first Mary, who places Jesus "in a manger" (Lk 2:7); then the angels, who announce to the shepherds "a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger" (v. 12); then the shepherds, who find "the child lying in the manger" (v. 16). The manger: to rediscover the meaning of Christmas you have to look there. But why is the manger so important? Because it is the non-random sign with which Christ enters the scene of the world. It is the manifesto with which he presents himself, the way in which God is born in history to make history be reborn. So what does the manger want to tell us? It wants to tell us at least three things: closeness, poverty and concreteness.
1. Proximity. The manger is used to bring food close to the mouth and to consume it faster. It can thus symbolize an aspect of humanity: the voracity in consuming. Because, while the animals in the stable consume food, men in the world, hungry for power and money, also consume their neighbors, their brothers. How many wars! And in how many places, even today, dignity and freedom are trampled on! And always the main victims of human voracity are the frail, the weak. Also this Christmas a humanity insatiable with money, insatiable with power and insatiable with pleasure makes no room, as it was for Jesus (cf. v. 7), for the little ones, for so many unborn, poor, forgotten children. I think above all of the children devoured by wars, poverty and injustice. But Jesus comes right there, a child in the manger of waste and rejection. In him, child of Bethlehem, there is every child. And there is an invitation to look at life, politics and history through the eyes of children.
In the manger of rejection and inconvenience, God takes his seats: he comes there, because there is the problem of humanity, the indifference generated by the voracious haste to possess and consume. Christ was born there and we discover him nearby in that manger. It comes where food is devoured to make itself our food. God is not a father who devours his children, but the Father who in Jesus makes us his children and feeds us with tenderness. He comes to touch our hearts and to tell us that the only force that changes the course of history is love. He does not remain distant, he does not remain powerful, but he becomes close and humble; He, who sat in heaven, lets himself be placed in a manger.
Brother, sister, God comes close to you tonight because he cares about you. From the manger, as food for your life, he says to you: “If you feel consumed by events, if your sense of guilt and your inadequacy devour you, if you are hungry for justice, I, God, am with you. I know what you live, I tried it in that manger. I know your miseries and your history. I was born to tell you that I am and will always be close to you". The Christmas manger, the first message of an infant God, tells us that he is with us, he loves us, he seeks us. Courage, don't let yourself be overcome by fear, by resignation, by discouragement. God is born in a manger to make you reborn right there, where you thought you'd hit rock bottom. There is no evil, there is no sin from which Jesus does not want and cannot save you. Christmas means that God is near: may trust be reborn!
2. The manger in Bethlehem, as well as being close, also speaks to us of poverty. In fact, there isn't much around a manger: brushwood and some animals and little else. People stayed warm in hotels, not in the cold barn of a lodging house. But Jesus was born there and the manger reminds us that he had nothing around him except those who loved him: Mary, Joseph and some shepherds; all poor people, united by affection and amazement, not by riches and great possibilities.The poor manger therefore brings out the true riches of life: not money and power, but relationships and people.
And the first person, the first wealth, is Jesus himself. But do we want to be at his side? Do we draw close to him, do we love his poverty? Or do we prefer to remain comfortable in our interests? Above all, do we visit him where he is, that is, in the poor mangers of our world? There He is present. And we are called to be a Church that adores the poor Jesus and serves Jesus in the poor. As a saintly bishop said: "The Church supports and blesses efforts to transform structures of injustice and sets only one condition: that social, economic and political transformations redound in authentic benefit for the poor" (O.A. Romero, Pastoral Message for the new year, January 1, 1980). Of course, it is not easy to leave the warm warmth of worldliness to embrace the bare beauty of the grotto in Bethlehem, but let us remember that it really isn't Christmas without the poor. Without them we celebrate Christmas, but not that of Jesus. Brothers, sisters, at Christmas God is poor: may charity be reborn!
3. Thus we arrive at the last point: the manger speaks to us of concreteness. Indeed, a baby in a manger represents a striking, even stark scene. He reminds us that God truly became flesh. And so theories, beautiful thoughts and pious feelings are no longer enough about him. Jesus, who was born poor, will live poor and die poor, didn't make many speeches about poverty, but he lived it to the end for us. From the manger to the cross, his love for us was tangible, concrete: from birth to death, the carpenter's son embraced the roughness of wood, the roughness of our existence. He didn't love us in words, he didn't love us in jest!
And therefore, he is not satisfied with appearances. He doesn't just want good intentions, He who became flesh. He who was born in the manger seeks a concrete faith, made up of adoration and charity, not of gossip and exteriority. He, who lays bare in the manger and will lay bare on the cross, asks us for the truth, to go to the bare reality of things, to lay apologies, justifications and hypocrisies at the foot of the manger. He, who was tenderly wrapped in swaddling clothes by Mary, wants us to clothe ourselves with love. God does not want appearance, but concreteness. Let's not let this Christmas go by, brothers and sisters, without doing something good. Since it's his party, his birthday, let's make him welcome gifts! At Christmas God is concrete: in his name we revive a little hope in those who have lost it!
Jesus, we look to You, lying in the manger. We see you so close, close to us forever: thank you, Lord. We see you poor, to teach us that true wealth is not in things, but in people, especially in the poor: sorry if we have not recognized you and served you in them. We see you concrete, because your love for us is concrete: Jesus, help us to give flesh and life to our faith. Amen.