On Christian Joy and the Nativity Scene

«The Crèche Is a School of Life»

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 13, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the public address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus with the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

We have now arrived at the third week of Advent. In the liturgy today there echoes the invitation of the Apostle Paul: «Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice … the Lord is near!» (Philippians 4:4-5). Mother Church, while she accompanies us toward the holy season of Christmas, helps us to rediscover the sense and the taste of Christian joy, so different from the world’s joy.

It is a beautiful tradition that on this Sunday the children of Rome come to have the Pope bless little statues of Baby Jesus, which they will place in their crèches. And, indeed, I see many children and young people, together with their parents, teachers and catechists here in St. Peter’s Square. Dear friends, I greet all of you with great affection and I thank all of you for having come. It is a cause of joy for me to know that in your families you continue the custom of making the crèche. But it is not enough to repeat a traditional gesture, however important. It is necessary to try to live every day what the crèche represents, that is, Christ’s love, his humility, his poverty. That is what St. Francis did at Greccio: He represented the scene of the Nativity to try to contemplate and adore it, but above all to know better how to put into practice the message of the Son of God, who left everything behind and became a little child out of love for us.

The blessing of the «babies» — as one says in Rome — reminds us that the crèche is a school of life, where we can learn the secret of true joy. This does not consist in having a lot of things, but in feeling loved by the Lord, in making oneself a gift for others, in loving. We look at the crèche: The Madonna and St. Joseph do not seem to be a very fortunate family; they had their first child in the midst of great hardships; and yet they are full of deep joy, because they love each other, they help each other and above all they are certain that God is at work in their history, God who made himself present in the little Jesus. And the shepherds? What reason would they have to rejoice? That newborn certainly would not change the facts of poverty and marginalization in their lives. But faith helps them to recognize in the «child wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger» the «sign» of the accomplishment of God’s promises for all men, «whom he loves» (Luke 2:12, 14), even them!

Behold, dear friends, what true joy consists in: It is feeling that our personal and communal existence is visited and filled by a great mystery, the mystery of God’s love. To be joyful we do not just have need of things, but love and truth: We need a God who is near, who warms our heart, and responds to our profound desires. This God is manifested in Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary. This is why that Baby, whom we place in the stable or the cave, is the center of everything, the heart of the world. Let us pray that every person, like the Virgin Mary, may welcome into the center of their lives the God who became a Child, font of true joy.

[After the Angelus the Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian he said:]

This week I received sad news from certain countries in Africa about the murder of four missionaries: the priests, Father Daniel Cizimya, Father Louis Blondel and Father Gerry Roche, and Sister Denise Kahambu. They were faithful witnesses of the Gospel, which they knew how to proclaim, even at the risk of their own lives. As I express nearness to their families and communities, who are grieving, I invite everyone to join in my prayer that the Lord welcome them into his house, console those who weep for them and bring them reconciliation and peace with his coming.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic] [In English, the Pontiff said:]

I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for our Angelus prayer. The liturgy of this Third Sunday of Advent, marked by joyful expectation of the Lord’s coming, invites us to rejoice in the hope of our salvation. May these days of preparation for Christmas be a time of genuine conversion and interior renewal for all Christians. Upon you and your families I invoke joy and peace in Jesus our Saviour.

© Copyright 2009 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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