Dear Sisters and Brothers,
“God loved the world so much that he gave up his only Son so that each one who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (Jn. 3,16)
This verse has often been qualified as the summary of the essence of christian faith. It expresses what we celebrate at Christmas.
God’s love for the world is a tremendous mystery, since the world often appears as all but lovable. The world is a messy place, lost, godforsaken. Highly problematic and ambiguous. A place of suffering and conflict, for many people a valley of tears.
Some would like to escape from it in one way or another, or only to forget about it even for a short time, creating somehow their own private temporary paradise where the burdens of life are not felt. Some would do anything to make the world a better place, hoping and toiling for a better future. We all recognize the endless potentialities of the world, knowing we will not be able to realize them.
In fact, when thinking about the world, we think about what we, human beings are doing to it, what we are making out of it. So does Holy Scripture. Biblical scholars tell us that “God loved the world so much” refers to God’s love for every human being without distinction. Loving the world implies love for sinners, for people wounded by weakness and evil. It is not so much “the world” that is loved, but our world: we.
To this world he has come as a light shining forth the Father’s goodness and humanity. Jesus is God’s love for our world, lived and shown in a human person. God incarnate. God coming to this world as man, as a servant, as a small child in a manger. His presence among us changes the world. It changes us who believe in him.
Contemplating Jesus in the crib we find rest and serenity for we are literally touched by divine love. Love for me as an individual, for our community, and indeed for the world. We learn to accept the world we live in for it is the place where he chose to be, the place where his love remains present for us and for those who will come after us.
Contemplating Jesus in the crib we find healing and forgiveness for he reveals the deepest reality: the Father who loves us and opens up the space in which we can become his children: “so that each one who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
An authentic meeting with God changes us for we cannot believe in him as the Father of Jesus and therefore “Our Father” without believing that other human beings are our brothers and sisters. Contemplating Jesus in the crib we learn to love the world as he loves it.
Contemplating Jesus in the crib we rediscover our canonical charism in all its freshness, finding God in this world among people, who are so much loved by him.
I wish all of you a holy celebration of the mystery of incarnation.
Jos Wouters, abbot-general