Here is the annual Christmas message from the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa.


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Peace and Good: St. Francis’s greeting helps us to enjoy the eternal novelty of Christmas, accompanying us towards the truth and keeping us away from everything that depreciates and makes the meaning of this celebration ambiguous. Let us not make vain this Christmas which comes for the umpteenth time, but which is always new.

Because Christmas cannot fail to make us uncomfortable: it is a celebration that seems to have lost its most intimate and truest meaning, and that leads us to wonder who that Child is for us, to see God in a child, to believe in a God who chooses to enclose his greatness in the smallness of our humanity.

For Christmas is not Jesus who was born in Bethlehem just over two thousand years ago. Christmas is Jesus, the Son of God, who again this year, like every day since that ancient time — for the men of his time, as for each of us today — waits for us to make room for him, waits to be born in our hearts. Christmas is an effort of conversion. It is being willing to respond to God’s waiting.

As we are summoned by faith to wait for him in glory, Christmas fixes our attention on God: his infinite wait for humanity to find room for him in daily history, in everyday life, in the ordinary solidarity that Jesus himself asked of us, assuring us: I will be with you every day until the end of the world; also telling us where to find his eyes and hands, where to walk together and from where to look at the horizon from which he will return: You always have the poor with you. … Let us not render it vain. The Word of God helps us and guides us to keep hope, until the Lord of glory comes.

The Child Jesus releases us from the fear of being in the daily flow of history, from the solitude of those who do not know how to give to others. And he grafts us on to a choral movement, where we discover that we are carried by love and we are capable, by grace, to carry that unique and precious fragment of history that the Lord places in our hands.

For everyone, Christmas must be this conversion of our gaze, realizing that the kingdom is advancing and is present; that I, we, all of us together, can make it present. Here is the need to look at creation, to look at the world, to look at the Middle East, and this Holy Land of “ours” — the Land of God and the Land of Men — “from above”, through the eyes of God. We must make our own, with trepidation and audacity, with humility and strength, with the courage and imagination of the dream that becomes true if there are many of us who dream, the words of Pope Benedict XVI at the inauguration of the Synod of Bishops of the Middle East: “Looking at that part of the world from God’s perspective means recognizing in it the ‘cradle’ of a universal design of salvation in love, a mystery of communion which becomes true in freedom and thus asks man for a response.” Each person has the responsibility to accept the offer of He who makes us exist and renews for us the thirst of being happy every day.

Let us not render it vain. Let us respond to God’s waiting, He who became a Child so that we could go to him as though he were the one to need us. Because the heart of our waiting is knowing that God has been patiently waiting for us for a long time. Welcomed by his waiting, made new by his forgiveness and his grace, men of mercy and of reconciliation, of freedom and justice, we will then be able to listen — amid the noise of our confused reality — the announcement of the Angels: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.

Happy Christmas.