VATICAN CITY, DEC. 25, 2002 (ZENIT.org).- Here is a translation of John Paul II’s Christmas message given at midday at St. Peter’s Basilica.
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1. “To us a child is born, to us a son is given” (Is 9:5). Today the mystery of Christmas is renewed: this Child who brings salvation to the world is also born for the men and women of our own time, bringing joy and peace for all. We approach the crib with emotion; together with Mary we go to meet the Long-Awaited of the Nations, the Redeemer of humanity. “Cum Maria contemplemur Christi vultum.”
With Mary let us contemplate the face of Christ: in that Child, wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in the manger (cf. Lk 2:7), it is God himself who comes to visit us, to guide our feet in the way of peace (cf. Lk 1:79).
Mary watches him, caresses him and keeps him warm, pondering the meaning of the wondrous signs which surround the mystery of Christmas.
2. Christmas is a mystery of joy! The Angels sang in the night: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased” (Lk 2:14). To the shepherds they described the event as “a great joy for all the people” (cf. Lk 2:10). Joy, despite distance from home, the poverty of the manger, people’s indifference, the hostility of power.
A mystery of joy nonetheless, for in the City of David “to you is born this day a Saviour” (Lk 2:11). The Church shares in this same joy, surrounded today by the light of the Son of God: the darkness can never obscure it. It is the glory of the Eternal Word, who out of love has become one of us.
3. Christmas is a mystery of love! The love of the Father, who has sent into the world his only-begotten Son, to bestow on us the gift of his own life (cf. 1 Jn 4:8-9). The love of “God-with-us”, Emmanuel, who came to earth in order to die on the Cross. In the cold stable, wrapped in silence, the Virgin Mother, with prophetic intuition, already tastes the violent drama of Calvary, the traumatic struggle between darkness and light, between death and life, between hatred and love. The Prince of Peace, born today in Bethlehem, will give his life on Golgotha, so that love may reign on earth.
4. Christmas is a mystery of peace! From the cave of Bethlehem there rises today an urgent appeal to the world not to yield to mistrust, suspicion and discouragement, even though the tragic reality of terrorism feeds uncertainties and fears. Believers of all religions, together with men and women of good will, by outlawing all forms of intolerance and discrimination, are called to build peace: in the Holy Land, above all, to put an end once and for all to the senseless spiral of blind violence, and in the Middle East, to extinguish the ominous smouldering of a conflict which, with the joint efforts of all, can be avoided; in Africa too, where devastating famines and tragic internal conflicts are aggravating the already precarious conditions of entire peoples, although here and there signs of hope are present; in Latin America, in Asia, in other parts of the world, where political, economic and social crises disturb the serenity of many families and nations. May humanity accept the Christmas message of peace!
5. Adorable mystery of the Incarnate Word! Together with you, O Virgin Mother, may we stop and reflect at the manger where the Child lies, to share your own amazement at the immense “condescension” of God. Grant us your own eyes, O Mary, that we may understand the mystery hidden within the frail limbs of your Son. Teach us to recognize his face in the children of every race and culture. Help us to be credible witnesses of his message of peace and love, so that the men and women of our own time, still torn by conflicts and unspeakable violence, may also recognize in the Child cradled in your arms the one Saviour of the world, the endless source of that true peace for which every heart profoundly yearns.
[Translation of the original Italian distributed by the Vatican Press Office]
When giving his greeting in 62 languages, the Pope said in English: “May the birth of the Prince of Peace remind the world where its true happiness lies; and may your hearts be filled with hope and joy, for the Saviour has been born for us.”