The birth of Jesus is the greatest gesture of love of our Father in Heaven, and therefore, we must resist attempts to distort Christmas which detract from its meaning.
Pope Francis stressed this during this morning’s General Audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, Dec. 27, 2017, as he discussed the significance of Christmas, which in these days we are living in faith and in celebrations.
The Pope began mentioning that the construction of the nativity scene and the readings and traditional songs, have made those present with him for the General Audience hall relive today, the day in which Christ, the Lord, was born.
In our time, especially in Europe, the Pope said, we witness a sort of “distortion” of Christmas.
“In the name of a false respect that is not Christian, which often hides the will to marginalize the faith,” Francis continued, “it eliminates from the celebration any reference to the birth of Jesus. But, in fact, this event is the only true Christmas!”
“Without Jesus there is no Christmas,” the Pope decried, “there is another party, but not Christmas.”
If Christ is in the center, then also the whole celebration, the lights, sounds, various local traditions, including the characteristic foods, all combine to create the atmosphere of the celebration properly, but only when Jesus is at the center, the Pope underscored.
“If we take away Him, the light goes out and everything becomes fake,” he decried.
Seeking the True Light
Through the proclamation of the Church, the Pope encouraged, we, like the shepherds of the Gospel, are guided to seek and find the true light, that of Jesus Who, made man like us, shows himself in a surprising way: born of a poor unknown young girl, who gives birth to Him in a stable, with only the help of her husband.
“The world does not notice anything, but in heaven the angels who know exult!” he said.
This, he pointed out, is how the Son of God presents himself to us today: as the gift of God for humanity who is immersed in the night and in the torpor of sleep.
“And even today we are witnessing the fact that humanity often prefers darkness because it knows that light would reveal all those actions and thoughts that would make the conscience blush or tarnish. Thus, we prefer to stay in the dark and not upset their bad habits.”
The True Gift, and Why We Exchange Gifts
Pope Francis then asked all faithful to ask themselves what it means to accept the gift of God that is Jesus. “As He Himself taught us with His life,” the Pope said, “it means becoming a free gift for those who meet on their own path every day.”
“That’s why at Christmas they exchange gifts,” Francis said, noting: The true gift for us is Jesus, and like him we want to be a gift for others. And since we want to be a gift to others, we exchange gifts, as a sign, as a sign of this attitude that Jesus teaches us: He, sent by the Father, was a gift for us, and we are gifts for others.”
The Pope recalled a passage from the Apostle St. Paul he finds especially important: “The grace of God appeared, bringing salvation to all people and teaching us to live in this world with sobriety, with justice and piety “(Titus 2: 11-12). The grace of God ‘appeared’ in Jesus, the face of God, which the Virgin Mary gave birth to as every child in this world, but who did not come from earth, but from Heaven, from God.”
“In this way, with the incarnation of the Son, God has opened the way for new life, founded not on egoism but on love.”
Greatest Gesture of God
“The birth of Jesus,” Pope Francis declared, “is the greatest gesture of love of our Father in Heaven.”
The Holy Father then turned to one last important aspect. “in Christmas we can see how human history, that moved by the powerful of this world, is visited by the history of God.” Francis reminded how God involves those who, confined to the margins of society, are the first recipients of seeing the great light …and of the gift, namely the Salvation brought by Jesus.
“With these people, with the little ones and the despised ones, Jesus establishes a friendship that continues in time and that nourishes the hope for a better future. To these people, represented by the shepherds of Bethlehem, appeared a great light, which led them straight to Jesus.”
With them, at all times, the Pope reminded, God wants to build a new world, a world in which there are no more people refused, mistreated and destitute.
In These Days
The Holy Father lamented how many people in their life have never experienced a caress, an attention of love, a gesture of tenderness, noting “Christmas urges us to respond.”
Once we do, he explained, Jesus comes to be born again in the life of each one of us and, through us, continues to be a gift of salvation for the little ones and the excluded.
Pope Francis concluded, with the following encouragement: “Dear brothers and sisters, in these days we open our minds and hearts to welcome this grace. Jesus is God’s gift to us and, if we welcome it, we too can become it for others – to be God’s gift to others – first of all for those who have never experienced attention and tenderness.”
The Pope greeted various groups present and also received a circus toward the conclusion of the audience.
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