VATICAN CITY, DEC. 21, 2003 ( With Christmas days away, John Paul II invited believers to relive the birth of Jesus in an atmosphere of silence.

"Christmas is already near," the Pope said today from his library window when addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square, where a 30-meter-high (100-foot) Christmas tree is on display.

"When giving the final touches to the crib and the Christmas tree ... it is necessary to predispose one's spirit to live intensely this great mystery of the faith," the Holy Father said before praying the midday Angelus.

The Pontiff suggested following the example of Mary, Mother of Jesus, who "helps us to understand the key words of the mystery of the birth of her divine Son: humility, silence, wonder, joy."

"She exhorts us, above all, to humility so that God will find room in our hearts, not darkened by pride and arrogance," he explained.

The Blessed Virgin "shows us the value of silence, which hears the song of the angels and the whimpering of the Child, not suffocating them in noise and confusion," the Pope added. "We will stand with her before the crib in profound wonder, enjoying the simple and pure joy that that Child brings to humanity."

Jesus "will enlighten those who lie in darkness and in the shadow of death," he said.

John Paul II appeared in better health than he was two months ago. The Holy See confirmed that he will preside at all the main Christmas liturgical celebrations. On Christmas Day, the Pope will impart his blessing to the city of Rome and the world.