Vatican (AsiaNews) - The Holy Father John Paul II presided over the 2003 midnight mass of the Nativity at St. Peter's Basilica.
The announcing of Christ's historic birth was done according to the words of the ancient text, the Kalenda.
The Holy Father sung the Gloria in excelsis Deo, a hymn glorifying God for the birth of the Redeemer. During the singing of the hymn, children from various continents presented gifts of flowers before the image of the Christ Child.
During the mass, after the reading of the holy Gospel, the pope gave the following sermon:
"Puer natus est nobis, filius datus est nobis" (Is 9,5).
In the words of the prophet Isaiah, as heard in the first reading, the truth of Christmas has been fulfilled, the very truth which we are living out together here tonight.
A Child was born. Apparently, one among many other children born into the world. A Child was born in a manger in Bethlehem. He was born under extreme conditions, a poor child among other poor children.
But He who was born is the most perfect Son, Filius datus est nobis. This Child is the Son of God, one in being with His Father. He was announced by the prophets. He became man by the work of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary.
When, in a few moments, we recite the Creed, " et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine et homo factus est", we will all kneel down, meditating in silence on the mystery of His birth: "Et homo factus est!" The Son of God has come among us and we receive him on our knees.
"The Word became flesh." (John 1,14) On this extraordinary night the eternal Word, the "Prince of Peace" (Is 9,5) was born into poverty, in a cold cave in Bethlehem.
"Fear not!" said the angel to the shepherds. "Today in the city of David a Savior is born. He is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2,11) We too, as anonymous and fortunate shepherds, run to greet He who has changed the course of history.
In the manger's miserable conditions, we contemplate "a child wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in his crib". In the defenseless and fragile newborn crying in Mary's arms, "the grace of God appeared, bearer of salvation for all men" (Tt 2,11). May we stop and silently adore him!
Oh baby Jesus, who desired a manger for His crib; oh Creator of the Universe, stripped of your divine glory; oh Redeemer, who offered your defenseless body as a sacrifice for mankind's salvation!
May the brilliance of your birth illuminate the dark night of the world. May the power of your message of love destroy evil's prideful snares. May the gift of your life make us understand ever more how much every human life is worth.
Too much blood is still being spilled on our earth! Too much violence and too many wars are still disturbing the peaceful living together of nations.
You come to bring us peace. You are our peace! Only you can make us "a pure nation" who forever belongs to you, a people ever "zealous in its good works." (Tt 2,14)
Puer natus est nobis, filius datus est nobis! What an indescribable mystery lies hidden in this Child's humility! We almost want reach out to touch and embrace Him.
Mary, you who watch over your omnipotent Son, grant us your vision to contemplate him in faith; grant us your heart to adore him lovingly.
In his simplicity, the Child of Bethlehem teaches us to rediscover the meaning of our existence; he teaches his to "live in simplicity, justice and piety in this world." (Tt 2,12)
Oh long awaited Holy Night, it was you who united God and man together forever. May you fill us again with hope. May you fill us with ecstatic wonder. May you assure us of the triumph of love over hatred, of life over death. Thus, we remain fixed in prayer.
In the luminous silence of your birth, may you, Emmanuel, continue speaking to us. And we will be ready to listen to you. Amen!