“Today, all is turned upside down: God comes into the world in littleness. His grandeur appears in littleness.”
Remaining mask-less throughout the service, Pope Francis gave his yearly Christmas Eve message from the Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican.
Attendance at the Renaissance-style church was limited to about 2,000 people as there is a resurgence of COVID cases in Italy. This number was still 10 times more than last year, when only 200 were allowed to be physically present at the event.
From the pulpit, the Supreme Pontiff urged the Catholic flock to accept littleness by way of Jesus’s birth.
After reading out a passage from Luke, the Pope points to the contrast of the biblical events. “It relates the birth of Jesus beginning with Caesar Augustus, who orders the census of the whole world: it presents the first Emperor in all his grandeur,” he says. “Yet immediately thereafter it brings us to Bethlehem, where there is no grandeur at all: just a poor child wrapped in swaddling clothes, with shepherds standing by. That is where God is, in littleness.”
According to the 85-year-old Argentine, the message is that “God does not rise up in grandeur, but lowers himself into littleness. Littleness is the path that he chose to draw near to us, to touch our hearts, to save us and to bring us back to what really matters.”
He continues that we should go beyond what is beautiful in our eyes and contemplate The Child in his littleness.
“Let us be amazed by this scandalous truth. The One who embraces the universe needs to be held in another’s arms. The One who created the sun needs to be warmed. Tenderness incarnate needs to be coddled. Infinite love has a miniscule heart that beats softly. The Eternal Word is an ‘infant,’ a speechless child. The Bread of Life needs to be nourished. The Creator of the world has no home. Today, all is turned upside down: God comes into the world in littleness. His grandeur appears in littleness,” he says.
The challenge therefore, the Pope explains, is the people’s understanding and acceptance of this divine revelation. We should pray to love littleness, he says.
“He makes himself little in the eyes of the world, while we continue to seek grandeur in the eyes of the world, perhaps even in his name. God lowers himself and we try to become great,” he says. “The Most High goes in search of shepherds, the unseen in our midst, and we look for visibility, to be seen. Jesus is born in order to serve, and we spend a lifetime pursuing success. God does not seek power and might; he asks for tender love and interior littleness.”
Rich and poor
The message has many other layers, as The Pope explains that God accepts our own “littleness.” He says that God answers back even as we feel weak, frail, inadequate, and messed up.
“Tonight he tells you: ‘I love you just as you are. Your littleness does not frighten me, your failings do not trouble me. I became little for your sake. To be your God, I became your brother. Dear brother, dear sister, don’t be afraid of me. Find in me your measure of greatness. I am close to you, and one thing only do I ask: trust me and open your heart to me.’”
The Pope also reminds us that accepting littleness also means reaching out to those in need. It is in them that he wants to be honored, he preaches.
“On this night of love, may we have only one fear: that of offending God’s love, hurting him by despising the poor with our indifference. Jesus loves them dearly, and one day they will welcome us to heaven,” the Pope says.
He closes the Homily by talking about the Magi, saying that Jesus’s birth is unifying, bringing everyone—rich and poor—together.
The Pontiff urges everyone to return to Bethlehem, the origins of the faith, the flock’s first love, to adoration and charity.
“Brothers and sisters, let us rejoice together, for no one will ever extinguish this light, the light of Jesus, who tonight shines brightly in our world,” he closes.”