At the Mass during the Night for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, Pope Francis reflects on how God comes into the world in littleness, as a tiny infant, drawing near to us to touch our hearts. The Pope celebrated the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica with a smaller congregation on hand in respect for health-safety rules.
A poor child wrapped in swaddling cloths
In his homily, the Pope noted the contrast emphasized in the Gospel, between the grandeur of worldly powers when Caesar Augustus orders the census of the world, with the small town of Bethlehem where we see the scene of the newly born, poor child found in the manger. The message of the Nativity is that “God does not rise up in grandeur, but lowers Himself into littleness,”, the Pope explained, showing that littleness is the path God shows to draw near to us, to save us, to bring us back to what truly matters.
God’s grandeur appears in littleness
The central image and message we contemplate today is the Child, how God is completely present in His littleness, the Pope said. He invited us to “be amazed by this scandalous truth.” He pointed out, too, how the “One who embraces the universe needs to be held in another’s arms,” how the creator of the sun needs to be warmed, and how “tenderness incarnate needs to be coddled.” Turning human logic upside down, the Pope said, “God comes into the world in littleness. His grandeur appears in littleness.”
God asks for tender love and interior littleness
The Pope pointed out that the challenge of Christmas is to ask whether “we can accept God’s way of doing things,” when our human tendency is to seek worldly grandeur. While “God lowers Himself…we try to become great,” he said, recalling the birth of Jesus in the midst of the shepherds and the poor. “God does not seek power and might; He asks for tender love and interior littleness.” The Pope encouraged us to ask Jesus for “the grace of littleness,” by inviting Him into our daily lives, our families, our communities, so that we can offer one another the same love He shows in coming to dwell among us, to serve and unite. He added, “amid our ordinary lived experience, he wants to do extraordinary things. His is a message of immense hope.”
Trust and have an open heart
As we invite Jesus into the little aspects of our lives, we also need to invite Him into our own living experience of littleness, the Pope explained, meaning our own weaknesses, troubles, wounds; and to realize that Jesus reminds us, especially on this night, that He loves us just as we are, is close to us, and asks for our trust and an open heart. Recognizing this, we too are called to embrace “Jesus in the little ones of today,” by loving Him in the least of our brothers and sisters, the poor, forgotten, and needy, as in them He makes Himself known.
Everything united with Jesus at the centre
The Pope recalled that Jesus was born close to the poor and forgotten, and by doing so elevates the excluded by first revealing Himself to them, rather than to those who are important in the eyes of the world. He recalled the dignity of all who work, especially in humble jobs, and the need for the dignity of every human person to be respected. So, the Pope said, we must work to ensure “no more deaths in the workplace!”
The Pope recalled that at the Christmas scene, we also glimpse the Magi coming to worship the Lord, the learned and rich, showing how Jesus brings together the rich and the poor in Bethlehem. “Everything is unified when Jesus is at the centre: not our ideas about Jesus, but Jesus himself, the living One.”
Let us return to Bethlehem, our origins
In conclusion, the Pope encouraged us to “return to the origins” and “the essentials of faith, to our first love, to adoration and charity,” like the pilgrims of the past, as a synodal and journeying Church today. The unity of the human family in worshiping the Lord is represented by the Holy Family, the shepherds, and the Magi, who shine as an example for us today “to be a worshipping, poor, and fraternal Church.”
Calling on everyone to rejoice, the Pope concluded: “Let us rouse ourselves, for tonight a light has been lit, a kindly light, reminding us that, in our littleness, we are beloved sons and daughters, children of the light.”