VATICAN CITY, DEC. 17, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of John Paul II’s address at today’s general audience, which he dedicated to reflect on the mystery of Christmas.
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1. “The Kingdom of God is near: it will not delay.” These words, taken from today’s liturgy, express the climate of our diligent and prayerful preparation for the Christmas celebrations, which are now close.
Advent maintains alive our expectation of Christ, who will come to visit us with his salvation, realizing fully his Kingdom of justice and peace. The annual recalling of the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem renews in the hearts of believers the certainty that God is faithful to his promises. Advent is, therefore, a powerful proclamation of hope, which touches profoundly our personal and communal experience.
2. Every man dreams of a more just and solidaristic world, where dignified conditions of life and peaceful coexistence render relations harmonious between individuals and peoples. Often, however, it is not like this. Obstacles, contrasts and difficulties of various kinds weigh down our existence and at times almost oppress it. The forces and courage of being committed to the good, risk yielding to evil that at times seems to have the upper hand. It is especially in these moments that hope comes to our help. The mystery of Christmas, which we will relive in a few days, assures us that God is Emmanuel — God with us. For this reason, we must never feel alone. He is close to us, he became one of us being born in the virginal womb of Mary. He shared our pilgrimage on earth, enabling us to attain that joy and peace, to which we aspire from the depth of our being.
3. The time of Advent brings to light a second element of hope, which refers more generally to the meaning and value of life. Not infrequently we are asked: Who are we? Where are we going? What is the meaning of what we do on earth? What awaits us after death?
There are, undoubtedly, good and honest objectives: the search for better material well-being, the pursuit of ever more advanced social, scientific and economic ends, a better realization of personal and communal expectations. But are these ends sufficient to satisfy the most profound aspirations of our spirit?
Today’s liturgy invites us to broaden our vision and to contemplate the Wisdom of God who comes from on High and is able to embrace the ends of the world, disposing everything “with gentleness and strength” (see responsorial antiphon).
May a spontaneous invocation spring then from the Christian people: “Come, Lord, do not delay.”
4. Worth underlining, finally, is a third element characteristic of Christian hope, which is very evident in the time of Advent. Advent and especially Christmas are a reminder to man, who rises from daily affairs and seeks communion with God, that God took the initiative to come to meet us. Becoming a baby, Jesus assumed our nature and established his covenant with the whole of humanity forever.
We can conclude, therefore, that the meaning of Christian hope, re-proposed by Advent, is that of confident expectation, of active availability and joyful openness to the encounter with the Lord. He came to Bethlehem to stay with us forever.
Therefore, let us nourish these days of immediate preparation for the Birth of Christ with the light and warmth of hope, dear brothers and sisters. This is my wish for you here present and for your loved ones. I entrust it to the maternal intercession of Mary, model and support of our hope.
Happy Advent and Happy Christmas to all!
[Translation by ZENIT]
[At the end of the audience, the following summary was read in English, before John Paul II greeted pilgrims in various languages. To the English-speaking he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The season of Advent, during which we await the coming of Christ, bears the signs of great hope. God remains faithful to his promises and becomes one of us, born of the Virgin Mary, to show us the path of justice, peace, and joy. When we contemplate the Wisdom of God found in Christ, our greatest difficulties can be overcome, and our deepest aspirations satisfied.
In face of doubts and divisions in our world, let the light and warmth of our Christian hope be at Christmastime a sure sign of Christ’s covenant with all humanity.
I extend a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims here today, including the groups from Australia and the United States. I wish you a joyful preparation for Christmas. Upon you and your families I invoke the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ who comes among us. Happy Christmas!