As Christmas has become a universal holiday, even for many non-believers, its celebration should always focus on the reality that God sent his son into the world to save humanity, Pope Francis has said.
Christmas should not be confused with “ephemeral things” that reduce the celebration of Christ’s birth “to a mere sentimental or consumerist feast,” the pope said Dec. 23 during his weekly general audience.
“Last Sunday, I drew attention to this issue, pointing out that consumerism has hijacked Christmas,” he said, departing from his prepared remarks. “No! Christmas should not be reduced to a simple sentimental or consumerist celebration (that is to say) full of gifts and good wishes but poor in Christian faith and poor in humanity too.”
Interrupting his series of talks on prayer, the pope reflected on the celebration of Christmas and the need to curb its observance of a “certain worldly mentality, incapable of grasping the incandescent core of our faith.”
St. John’s assertion that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” he said, “is the core of Christmas. In fact, it is the truth of Christmas; there is no other.”
“Christmas invites us to reflect, on the one hand, on the drama of history where men and women, wounded by sin, constantly seek truth, mercy, redemption; and, on the other hand, on the goodness of God, who has come to us to communicate to us the truth that saves us and to share with us his friendship and his life,” the pope said. “This gift of grace is pure grace, without merit on our part. “
The grace that accompanies the Christmas season, he said, can also remove “from our hearts and minds the pessimism that has spread today as a result of the pandemic.”
“We can overcome this disturbing feeling of bewilderment, by not allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed by defeats and failures, in the newfound awareness that this humble and poor child, hidden and powerless, is God himself made man for us.”
Pope Francis has invited Christians to prepare to celebrate Christmas by contemplating the nativity scene and by “letting the wonder of the ‘marvelous’ way by which God wanted to come into the world be reborn in us”.
“Let us ask for the grace of wonder,” the pope said. “Before this mystery, before this reality so tender, so beautiful, so close to our hearts, may the Lord grant us the grace of wonder to meet him, to be close to him, to be close to each other .
“While the pandemic has forced us to distance ourselves” from each other, he said, “Jesus, in the manger, shows us the way of tenderness to be close to each other, to be human. Let’s follow this path.”