Jesus' Birth Reveals the Depth of God's Love
by Pope John Paul the Great
Pope John Paul the Great, General Audience, January 3, 2001
1. "Let us rejoice and be glad in the Lord,
for eternal salvation has appeared in the world, alleluia". With these words the liturgy
today invites us to remain absorbed in the "holy joy" of
Christmas. At the beginning of a new year, this exhortation directs us to live it entirely
in the light of Christ, Whose salvation
appeared in the world for all human beings.
The Christmas season, in fact, once again brings
Jesus' mystery and
His work of salvation to the attention of
Christians. Before the crib, the Church
adores the august mystery of the Incarnation
; the Child stirring in Mary's arms is
the Eternal Word Who has entered time and
taken on human nature wounded
by sin, to unite it
to Himself and redeem
it. Every human reality and every
temporal event thus acquire an eternal resonance: in the
Person of the Incarnate Word creation is
St Augustine writes: "God became man so that man might become God".
Between Heaven and Earth a bridge has been built forever;
in the God-Man humanity
rediscovers the way to Heaven. Mary's
Son is the universal Mediator, the
supreme Pontiff. This Child's every act is a
mystery meant to reveal God's unfathomable benevolence.
2. At the stable in Bethlehem,
the infinite love God has for every human being
is expressed with disarming simplicity. In the crib we contemplate God
made man for us.
St Francis of Assisi had the idea of portraying this message in a live nativity scene
at Greccio on 25 December 1223. His biographer, Thomas of
Celano, relates that he was radiant with joy because that moving
scene shone with Gospel simplicity, poverty was
praised, and humility recommended. The
biographer ends by noting that "after the solemn vigil, everyone went home filled with unspeakable joy" (cf. Vita prima, chap. XXX, 86, 479).
Francis' insight is surprising: the crib is not only a new Bethlehem
because it recalls the historical event and makes present its message, but it is also an occasion of joy
and consolation: it is the day of joy, the time of
exultation. Thomas of Celano further observes that that Christmas
night was as clear as broad day and sweet to men and animals (cf. ibid., 85, 469).
3. The crib celebrates the covenant between
God and man, between Heaven
and Earth. Bethlehem, a place of joy,
also becomes a school of goodness, because the mercy
and love that joins God to
His children are expressed there. It visibly demonstrates the brotherhood that must bind all who are
brothers and sisters in faith, since they are all children
of the one heavenly Father. In this place of
communion, Bethlehem shines as the house where everyone can find
nourishment - etymologically its name means "house of bread" - and the
paschal mystery of the Eucharist is,
in a certain way, already foretold.
In Bethlehem, as if on a symbolic altar, the undying Life
is already celebrated and the people of all time are granted, as it were, a foretaste of the
food of immortality, which is "the
pilgrims' food, truly bread for sons" (Sequence for Corpus Christi).
Only the Redeemer, born in Bethlehem, can fulfill the deepest longings of
the human heart and soothe
its sufferings and
4. At the stable in Bethlehem we contemplate
Mary, who brought forth the
Son of God by the power of the
Holy Spirit. "The woman who was docile to the voice of the
Spirit, a woman of silence and attentiveness, a woman of hope who, like Abraham, accepted God's will 'hoping against hope
(cf. Romans4:18)" (Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 48),
Our Lady shines out as a model to all who wholeheartedly put their trust in
With her and Joseph, we
remain in adoration before the cradle of Bethlehem, as we imploringly call upon Heaven:
"Let Your face shine upon us and save us, Lord!".
Consoled by the gift of the Savior's
birth, let us intensify our commitment in these final days of the Holy Year. Let us open our heart
to Christ, the one, universal way that leads to God.
Thus we can continue in the new year with steadfast confidence. May the powerful intercession of Mary,
the faithful Virgin, the silent witness to
the mystery of Bethlehem, sustain us on our way.