Ahead of Christmas, Pope Francis spoke on the surprise of God and his great gift in sending Jesus Christ to save mankind.

“God gives us all of Himself by giving His one and only Son, who is all his joy — and only with the heart of Mary, the humble and poor daughter of Zion, become the Mother of the Son of the Most High, that we can rejoice and be glad for the great gift of God and for His unpredictable surprise.”

The Pope prayed that the Virgin Mary may help us to “perceive the wonder.”

“So let it be with the birth of Jesus — the gift of gifts — the undeserved gift that brings us salvation, that it might also make us feel this wonder in meeting Jesus,” the pontiff said Dec. 20.

Thousands of pilgrims and tourists had gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the recitation of the Angelus on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Vatican Radio reports.

Pope Francis said that we cannot have the wonder of meeting Jesus “if we do not meet Him in another person, in history and in the Church.” His remarks stressed these three “places of wonder.”   Another person is a place “to discover a brother.” The Pope said that “from the moment in which Jesus was born, every visage carries the features of the Son of God — above all when it is the face of a poor person, because it was as a poor person that God entered the world and it was by the poor that He allowed himself to be approached first.”

Looking to history, “if we look with faith, we feel real wonder,” the Pope explained, warning against a wrongheaded approach.

“So many times we think we see it the right way, and instead we risk reading it backwards: it happens, for example, when history seems to us to be determined by the market economy, regulated by finance and business, dominated by the powers that be,” he said.

God then “shuffles the deck,” as shown by Mary’s Magnificat: “it is the Lord who casts down the mighty from their thrones and lifts up the lowly, who fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty.”

Pope Francis said that the Church is also a place for wonder.

“To look on her with the wonder of faith means not just considering the Church only as a religious institution — which the Church is — but to feel her as a mother who, despite her warts and wrinkles — we have so many! — lets the contours of the bride beloved of and purified by Christ the Lord shine through.”

At the Angelus the Pope blessed the “bambinelli,” small statues and figurines of the Christ Child for Nativity scenes. Children traditionally bring these on the last Sunday of Advent. The Pope had a request for the children: “when you pray before your Nativity Scene, remember to pray also for me, as I shall remember you.”

The Pope’s comments also reflected on the disasters and conflicts of the world.

“My thoughts turn in this moment to the dear populations of India, recently stricken by a great flood,” he said.

Massive floods in the Indian city of Chennai Dec. 1-2 killed around 300 people and displaced thousands more. The city, whose population is close to 5 million, is now at risk of disease.

“Let us pray for these brothers and sisters, who are suffering as a result of this great calamity, and let us entrust the souls of the dead to the mercy of God,” the Pope said before leading the gathered crowd in praying a Hail Mary for the affected.

Pope Francis also spoke of the civil war in “our beloved Syria.” He voiced his appreciation for the U.N.-sponsored resolution for a peace process to end a conflict that has killed over 300,000 people.

“I encourage everyone to continue, with a generous spirit of confident willingness, toward cessation of violence and a negotiated settlement leading to peace.”

He then discussed Libya, saying a plan for a national unity government “invites hope for the future.”

For Nicaragua and Costa Rica, where an international court has ruled on a long-standing territory dispute, Pope Francis hoped for “a renewed spirit of fraternity” that will strengthen dialogue and cooperation between the two countries.