Jerusalem (AsiaNews) For 36 years I travelled the world representing the Holy See but nowhere have I felt the presence of God so close than inside the Nativity Grotto. Here is where the Word of God became a child like me, where He was born like me, where He cried the first time; where he smiled, walked, ate like me. He made Himself small so that His holiness would not scare me, but he also made Himself 'Emanuel': "God with us".
The message sent out from Bethlehem can be summarised as follows: "God loves you despite your unfaithfulness so as to give life its full meaning that you may feel that life is like a mission and a gift."
Kneeling and worshiping the Child born in Bethlehem can heal the two afflictions of our times: solitude and fear of the future.
Despite having a cellphone in their pockets, men and women today suffer from solitude. Yet, whosoever strongly believes in the Emanuel ("God with us") of Bethlehemeven when he is under the impression that he has been abandoned by allknows that his faithful God is still with him. In the end, solitude probably afflicts us because we have left our only faithful friend, the Faithful One: our Lord Jesus.
The other affliction is fear of the future. What shall happen to me? What disease shall I contract? What will be my children's future? Concern for the future is normal, but believers know that their lives are in God's hands, a God who loves them. The future may worry them but they can put their trust in the Almighty because they know that the God who loves them will do His best for them.
To kneel Bethlehem means rediscovering the meaning of the life God gave us; it means we are close to the true source of love and mercy; it means that we are not an accident but are in this world to fulfill the mission God has planned for us.
For Jews, Bethlehem is David, the founder of their kingdom and forerunner of the Messiah they are waiting.
Seen in this light of faith, Bethlehem can and must become a journey of hope into the future.
Bethlehem for the people of Bethlehem:
From a human point of view, being surrounded by an eight-metre (27-ft) wall and the great hardship it imposes are certainly no way to celebrate Christmas for it literally closes off one's horizons.
However even here, when we kneel before God made man we must pull down the wall of selfishness and open up to others. We must bring down the wall that hides our sins and invoke mercy. We must tear down the wall of our sadness to appeal to the path of joy which is walking with Christ along the steps of our life.
In this sense I wish everyone could humbly kneel before the Child of Bethlehem and find the source of life, in the fullness of life and joy. Merry Christmas!
* Apostolic nuncio in the United States.
Former apostolic nuncio in Israel and Cyprus and apostolic delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine.