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Today is born to us a Saviour of the world
For twenty centuries the joyful proclamation, "Today is born to us a Saviour of the world", has burst forth from the heart of the Church. On this holy day the Angel repeats it to us - "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy ... to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour" (Lk 2:10-11).
We have prepared to welcome these comforting words during the season of Advent: in them the "today" of our redemption becomes a reality.
At this hour, the word "today" rings out with a unique sound: we are spiritually linked to that unique moment of history when God became man, taking to himself our flesh.
Yes, the Son of God, of one being with the Father, God from God and Light from Light, eternally begotten of the Father, became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and assumed our human nature. He was born in time. God entered history. The incomparable eternal "today" of God has become present in everyday human life.
We fall down in adoration before the Son of God. We unite ourselves in spirit to the wonder of Mary and Joseph. As we adore Christ, born in a stable, we make our own the faith, filled with astonishment, of the shepherds of that time; we feel their same amazement and their same joy.
It is difficult not to be overcome by the eloquence of this event: we remain enthralled. We are witnesses of that instant of love which unites the eternal to history: the "today" which begins the time of jubilation and hope, for "to us a son is given; and dominion is laid upon his shoulders" (Is 9:6), as we read in the text of Isaiah.
At the feet of the Word Incarnate let us place our joys and fears, our tears and hopes. Only in Christ, the new man, is true light shed upon the mystery of human existence.
With the Apostle Paul, let us contemplate the fact that in Bethlehem "the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all" (Titus 2:11). This is the reason why on Christmas night songs of joy ring out in every corner of the earth, in every language. Before our eyes we see fulfilled what the Gospel proclaims: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him ... might have eternal life" (Jn 3:16).
You O Christ, are the Only- begotten Son of the living God, come among us in the stable of Bethlehem. After two-thousand years, we re-live this mystery as a unique and unrepeatable event.
Among all the children of men, all the children born into the world down the centuries, you alone are the Son of God: in an ineffable way, your birth has changed the course of human events.
This is the truth which the Church wants to pass on in the third millennium. And may all you who will come after us accept this truth, which has totally changed history. Ever since the night of Bethlehem, humanity knows that God became Man: he became Man in order to give man a share in his divine nature.
You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. The Church greets you, who have come into the world to triumph over death. You have come to illuminate human life through the Gospel. You are our hope. You alone have words of eternal life.
You who came into the world on Bethlehem night, remain with us. You who are the Way, and the Truth, and the Life, guide us. You who came from the Father, lead us to him in the Holy Spirit, along the path which you alone know and which you have revealed to us, that we might have life and have it in abundance.
You O Christ, the Son of the living God, be for us the door. Be for us the true door, symbolised by the door which we have solemnly opened. Be for us the door which leads us into the mystery of the Father. Grant that no one may remain outside his embrace of mercy and peace.
"Today is born to us a Saviour of the world": it is Christ who is our only Saviour. This is the message of Christmas.
This is the edited text of Pope John Paul II's Christmas Midnight Mass homily of 24 December 1999.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 17 No 11 (December 2004 - January 2005), p. 20
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