VATICAN CITY, DEC. 21, 2005 ( Noting the rise of yuletide consumerism, Benedict XVI invited the faithful to rediscover the spiritual traditions of Christmas in order to transmit them to future generations.

The Pope dedicated today's general audience, held in St. Peter's Square, to the approaching solemnity of Jesus' birth.

"While a certain modern and consumer culture attempts to make the Christian symbols of the celebration of Christmas disappear, let us assume the commitment to understand the value of the Christmas traditions, which are part of the patrimony of our faith and our culture, to transmit them to the new generations," the Holy Father told the 15,000 people gathered in the square.

From among the numerous Christmas symbols the Pontiff chose light, "one of the richest in spiritual meaning" on "which I would like to reflect briefly."

"The feast of Christmas coincides, in our hemisphere, with the time of the year in which the sun ends its descending parabola and begins the phase in which the time of daylight increases gradually, according to the successive course of the seasons," Benedict XVI said in his reflection, read in Italian.

Light motif

This image helps us to understand better "the subject of light that prevails over darkness," he said.

"It is a symbol that evokes a reality that affects man's inner being," the Pope added. "I am referring to the light of good that overcomes evil, of love that overcomes hatred, of life that conquers death.

"Christmas makes us think of this interior light, of the divine light that presents to us again the proclamation of the definitive victory of the love of God over sin and death."

The Savior awaited by the nations is "the star that indicates the way and the guide of people, wayfarers amid the darkness and dangers of the world toward the salvation promised by God and realized in Jesus Christ," the Holy Father said.

"On seeing the streets and squares of our cities adorned with glittering lights, let us remember that these lights evoke another light, invisible to our eyes, but not to our hearts," he urged.

"Contemplating them, when lighting the candles of churches or the Nativity and Christmas tree lights in our homes, may our spirits open to the true spiritual light brought to all men and women of good will," the Bishop of Rome continued.

The Star

"The God with us, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, is the Star of our lives!" he exclaimed. "Let us pray to the Lord to hasten his glorious coming among us, among all those who are suffering, as only in him can they find the answer to the authentic expectations of the human heart."

"May this Star of light that never sets, communicate to us the strength to follow always the path of truth, justice and love," the Pope exhorted.

Before concluding, the Bishop of Rome invited the pilgrims to live the days preceding Christmas with Mary, "the Virgin of silence and listening."

"May she, who was totally enveloped by the light of the Holy Spirit, help us to understand and to live fully the mystery of Christ's Christmas," he said before wishing everyone a "Merry Christmas!"

Rain threatened at the start of the audience, but it ended with sun. On taking leave of the pilgrims, after speaking of Jesus as the "sun of justice" -- an image of the early Christians -- the Pope affirmed: "Let us be grateful that the sun has appeared and confirmed all that we meditated on."