Christmas Isn't Too Good to Be True, Says Pope

Affirms That Feast Reveals Life’s Meaning

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 17, 2008 ( Though the Christmas mystery might seem «too beautiful to be true,» Christ’s birth shows that there is meaning in life, and that this meaning is God, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this today when he reflected on the mystery of Christmas during the general audience in Paul VI Hall. He noted that today begins the Christmas novena.

«The entire Church, in effect, turns its gaze of faith toward this approaching feast, readying itself, like each year, to unite to the joyful song of the angels, who in the heart of the night will announce to the shepherds the extraordinary event of the birth of the Redeemer, inviting them to draw close to the cave of Bethlehem,» the Holy Father said. «There lies Emanuel, the Creator made creature, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a poor manger.»

The Pontiff noted that Christmas — as the «encounter with a newborn who cries in a miserable cave» — can lead us to think of so many children who live in poverty, of infants who are rejected, and of families «who desire the joy of a child and do not see this hope fulfilled.»

And Christmas, he said, «runs the risk of losing its spiritual significance to be reduced to a mere commercial occasion to buy and exchange gifts.»

Nevertheless, the Pope contended, difficulties such as the world economic crisis «can be a stimulus to discover the warmth of simplicity, friendship and solidarity — characteristic values of Christmas. Stripped of consumerist and materialist incrustations, Christmas can thus become an occasion to welcome, as a personal gift, the message of hope that emanates from the mystery of the birth of Christ.»

Something more

Still, Benedict XVI affirmed, all of this is not enough to grasp the value of the feast of Christmas, which is really a celebration of the «central event of history.»

«In the darkness of the night of Bethlehem,» he said, «a great light was truly lit: The Creator of the universe incarnated himself, uniting himself indissolubly with human nature, to the point of really being ‘God from God, light from light’ and at the same time, man, true man.»

This mystery was expressed by St. John as «the Word was made flesh,» the Pope recalled. But, he said, John’s expression can be understood in another way: The Greek expression translated as «the Word» also means «the Meaning.»

The Pontiff went on to explain: «The ‘eternal Meaning’ of the world has made himself tangible to our senses and our intelligence. Now we can touch him and contemplate him. The ‘Meaning’ that has become flesh is not simply a general idea inscribed in the world; it is a ‘word’ directed to us. The Logos knows us, calls us, guides us. It is not a universal law, in which we fulfill some role, but rather it is a Person who is interested in each individual person: It is the living Son of God, who has become man in Bethlehem.

«To many people, and in some way to all of us, this seems too beautiful to be true. In effect, here it is reaffirmed for us: Yes, there is meaning, and this meaning is not an impotent protest against the absurd. The Meaning is powerful: It is God. A good God, who is not to be confused with some lofty and distant power, to which it is impossible to ever arrive, but rather a God who has made himself close to us and to our neighbor, who has time for each one of us and who has come to stay with us.»

Being freed

To open one’s heart to this mystery, the Pontiff acknowledged, requires yielding the mind and admitting the limits of our intelligence.

«Perhaps we would have submitted more easily before power, before pride,» the Pope suggested. «But [Christ] does not want our submission. He appeals, rather, to our heart and to our free decision to accept his love. He has made himself little to free us from this human pretension of greatness that arises from pride; he has incarnated himself freely to make us truly free, free to love him.»

Thus, the Holy Father encouraged preparing for Christmas with humility and simplicity, «readying ourselves to receive the gift of light, joy and peace that irradiates from this mystery.»

«Let us,» he concluded, «ask most holy Mary, the tabernacle of the incarnate Word, and St. Joseph, silent witness of the events of salvation, to communicate to us the sentiments they had while they awaited the birth of Jesus, so that we can prepare ourselves to celebrate in a holy way the coming Christmas, in the joy of faith and enlivened by the determination of a sincere conversion.»

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