At St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, where he was celebrating Christmas, Pope Francis encouraged the faithful to “not let this Christmas go by without doing something good.” “We know a lot about Christmas, but we forget the meaning,” he said.
His homily was an opportunity to meditate on the meaning of the manger in which Christ was laid at his birth in Bethlehem, a symbol of closeness, poverty and concreteness to be experienced even today.
How can we “rediscover the meaning of Christmas? With this question, the Holy Father began his homily under the statue of St. Longin, in front of the altar of confession, all adorned with red and white flowers on this Christmas night that has just begun.
In the face of the perils of consumerism and agitation, the Nativity scene offers the reader a “small object” rich in meaning: the manger. It is “the sign, not by chance, with which Christ enters the world stage. It is the manifesto with which he presents himself, God’s way of being born into history in order to bring history to life,” said the Pontiff.
The manger evokes closeness, poverty and concreteness, he continued.
His love does not devour
First of all, proximity, because the animals can eat their food quickly. And the Pope drew a parallel with the “greed to consume” on the part of men, also “greedy for power and greedy for money”. “In how many places, even today, are dignity and freedom trampled underfoot!
Francis had a thought for “children devoured by wars, poverty and injustice. But that is precisely where Jesus comes from, a child in the manger of rejection and exclusion. In the child of Bethlehem, every child is found”.
Yet Christ does not flee this pit of greed. “He goes where food is devoured, to make himself our food. God is not a father who devours his children, but the Father who, in Jesus, makes us his children and nourishes us with his tenderness. He comes to touch our hearts and tell us that the only force that changes the course of history is love,” the Pope stressed, praising a God who is “humble and close.
The Christmas manger is thus the “first message of a child God”, telling us “that He is with us, that He loves us, that He seeks us”.
Celebrating Christmas with the poor
This manger in a stable in Bethlehem also refers to poverty. Around the newborn child, we find Mary, Joseph and the shepherds. “All poor people, united by affection and amazement, not by wealth and great opportunities,” described the Successor of Peter. The poor manger shows the true riches of life: not money or power, but relationships and people.
But the first of these riches is Christ, Francis recalled, asking if we are still going to visit him “in the poor feeding troughs of our world”. Hence this encouragement “to be a Church that adores the poor Jesus, and serves Jesus in the poor. Without the poor, he warned, “we celebrate Christmas, but not Jesus’ Christmas.
Having a concrete faith
Finally, the Pope emphasized the concrete character of the manger, which reminds us that “God truly became flesh.” “Jesus, who was born poor, who lived poor and died poor, did not make many speeches about poverty, but he lived it fully for us. From the manger to the cross, his love for us was tangible, concrete (…). He did not love us in words, he did not love us in jest,” exclaimed the Holy Father.
The Lord’s witness is an invitation to “a concrete faith, made up of adoration and charity, not of talk and external appearances. It is a matter of “going to the naked reality of things, laying at the foot of the manger the excuses, justifications and hypocrisies. He who was tenderly wrapped in swaddling clothes by Mary, wants us to put on love. God does not want appearances, but concrete things”, insisted the Pontiff.