Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

Urbi et Orbi

by Pope Saint John Paul II


Christmas message of His Holiness Pope John Paul II.

Publisher & Date

Vatican, Christmas 1995

1. You are my Son, today I have begotten you (Heb 1:5). The words of today's Liturgy introduce us into the mystery of the eternal birth, beyond time, of the Son of God, the Son, of one Being with the Father. The Gospel of John says: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God (Jn 1:1-2). We profess the same truth in the Creed: God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. This is the joyful news of Christmas, as transmitted by the Evangelists and the Church's apostolic tradition. Today we wish to announce it to the City and to the World, Urbi et Orbi.

2. He was in the world, and the world was made through him (Jn 1:10). The One born on Christmas night comes among his own. Why does he come? He comes to give new strength, a power different from that of the world. He comes in poverty to a stable at Bethlehem, with the greatest of gifts: he gives us divine adoption. To all who welcome him he gives the power to become children of God (Jn 1:12), in order that in him, the eternal Son of the eternal Father, they may be born of God (cf. Jn 1:13). In him, in fact, in the Babe of this holy night, there is life (cf. Jn 1:4): life that knows no death; the life of God himself; the life which, as Saint John says, is the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness did not accept it (cf. Jn 1:4-5). On Christmas Night there appears the light that is Christ. It shines and penetrates people's hearts, filling them with the new life. It enkindles in them the eternal light, that ever enlightens the human person even when the darkness of death envelops the body. Precisely for this the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14).

3. He came to his own, and his own people received him not (Jn 1:11), as recorded in the Prologue of John's Gospel. The Evangelist Luke confirms this truth, and recalls that there was no place for them in the inn (Lk 2:7). For them, that is, for Mary and Joseph and for the Child about to be born. This is an idea often expressed in our Christmas carols: His own people did not receive him... In the great inn of the whole human community, as well as in the little inn of our own hearts, how many poor people even today, at the threshold of the Year 2000, come to knock!

4. Christmas is the celebration of welcome and of love! Will there be room, on this day, for the scattered families of Bosnia-Hercegovina, who are still anxiously waiting for the results of peace, the peace recently proclaimed? And the refugees of Rwanda, will they be able to return to a country that is really reconciled? Will the people of Burundi be able to find once more the path of fraternal peace? Will the peoples of Sri Lanka be able to look forward, hand in hand, to a future of brotherhood and solidarity? Will the people of Iraq finally be able to return to a normal existence, after the long years of embargo? Will there be room for the inhabitants of Kurdistan, of whom many are obliged, once more, to face the winter in the most difficult conditions? And how could we forget our brothers and sisters of southern Sudan, still exposed to an armed violence fomented without respite? Nor, indeed, can we forget the people of Algeria, who continue to suffer, the victims of harsh trials.

It is in this hurt world that the Infant Jesus, in all his love and frailty, appears! He comes to free those caught up in hatred, and slaves of particular interests, and divisions. He comes to open new perspectives. The Son of God encourages the hope that, in spite of so many great difficulties, peace will finally appear on the horizon. There are promising signs of this, even in troubled areas such as Northern Ireland and the Middle East. Let people open their hearts to the Word of God made flesh in the poverty of Bethlehem.

5. This is the Mystery which we celebrate today: God has spoken to us by a Son (Heb 1:2). In many and in varied ways God had spoken through the Prophets, but when the fullness of time (Gal 4:4) had arrived, He spoke through the Son. The Son is the reflection of the Father's glory, the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by the power of his word. This is what the author of the Letter to the Hebrews says about the new-born Son of Mary (cf. Heb 1:3). Although through him God the Father created the universe, this Child is also the Firstborn and the Heir of all creation (cf. Heb 1:1-2). This poor Babe, for whom there was no room in the inn, in spite of appearances, is the sole Heir of the whole of creation. He came to share with us this birthright of his, so that we, having become children of divine adoption, might have a part in the inheritance that he brought with him into the world. Eternal Word, today we contemplate your glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (cf. Jn 1:14). Over the airwaves, may the joyful message of your Birth, ever old and ever new, reach the peoples and nations of every continent and bring peace to the world.

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