Address Dedicated to the Last Days of Advent

Life Is an Awaiting of Christmas, Says John Paul II

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 18, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of John Paul II’s address at today’s general audience, dedicated to spiritual preparation for Christmas. The address was in Italian.

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1. In this season of Advent, we are guided by the invitation of the prophet Isaiah: “Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God … he comes to save you” (Isaiah 35:4). This becomes even more urgent as Christmas approaches, enriching us with the exhortation to prepare our heart to receive the Messiah. He who is awaited by the people will certainly come, and his salvation will be for all men.

On Christmas Eve we will again recall his birth in Bethlehem, in a certain sense, we will relive the emotions of the shepherds, their joy and wonder. With Mary and Joseph, we will contemplate the glory of the Word made flesh for our redemption. We will pray that all men welcome the new life that the Son of God has brought to the world by assuming our human nature.

2. The liturgy of Advent, permeated with constant allusions to the joyful expectation of the Messiah, helps us to understand fully the value and meaning of the mystery of Christmas. It is not just about commemorating the historical event, which occurred some 2,000 years ago in a little village of Judea. Instead, it is necessary to understand that the whole of our life must be an “advent,” a vigilant awaiting of the final coming of Christ. To predispose our mind to welcome the Lord who, as we say in the Creed, one day will come to judge the living and the dead, we must learn to recognize him as present in the events of daily life. Therefore, Advent is, so to speak, an intense training that directs us decisively toward him who already came, who will come, and who comes continuously.

3. With these sentiments the Church prepares itself to contemplate ecstatically within a week the mystery of the Incarnation. The Gospel recounts the conception and birth of Jesus, and refers to the many providential circumstances that preceded and surrounded such a wonderful event: the Angel’s announcement to Mary, the birth of the Baptist, the choir of angels in Bethlehem, the coming of the Magi of the East, St. Joseph’s visions. These are all signs and evidence that underline the divinity of this Child. Emmanuel, God with us, is born in Bethlehem.

In the liturgy of these days the Church offers us three singular “guides,” who indicate to us the attitudes to assume in going out to meet this divine “guest” of humanity.

4. First of all Isaiah, the prophet of consolation and hope. He proclaims a true and proper Gospel for the people of Israel enslaved in Babylon, and exhorts them to remain vigilant in prayer, to recognize “the signs” of the coming of the Messiah.

Then there is John the Baptist, the Messiah’s precursor, who appears as a “voice crying in the desert,” preaching “a baptism of conversion for the forgiveness of sins” (see Mark 1:4). It is the only condition to recognize the Messiah already present in the world.

And finally, Mary, who, in this novena of preparation for Christmas, guides us toward Bethlehem. Mary is the woman of the “yes” who, contrary to Eve, makes the plan of God her own, without reservations. Thus she becomes a clear light for our steps and the highest model for our inspiration.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us be accompanied by the Virgin toward the Lord who comes, remaining “vigilant in prayer and exulting in praise.”

I wish everyone a good preparation for the coming Christmas celebrations.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father gave the following summary in English:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this season of Advent we are guided by the invitation of the prophet Isaiah: “Say to those who are fearful of heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come and save you'” (Isaiah 35, 4). These words invite us to prepare our hearts to welcome the Messiah. On Christmas night, with Mary and Joseph, we too contemplate the glory of the Word made flesh for our redemption. And we must pray that all people welcome the new life brought by the Son of God.

The liturgy of Advent presents us with three “guides” — Isaiah, John the Baptist, and Mary — who show us how we should welcome Emmanuel, God with us. Isaiah exhorts us to be vigilant in prayer, John the Baptist calls us to conversion and repentance, and Mary teaches us to embrace the will of God. Let us join our hearts to theirs as we eagerly await the coming of the Lord.

I extend a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims present today, including the groups from Denmark and the United States. I wish you a fruitful preparation for Christmas, and upon all of you and your families I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Happy Christmas!

[Original English text distributed by Vatican Press Office]

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