VATICAN CITY, DEC. 18, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Christmas is not just about remembering Jesus’ birth; rather, it is understanding that our life is an awaiting for the final coming of Christ, says John Paul II.
The Pope took advantage of today’s general audience to offer ways to prepare spiritually for Christmas and to be able to relive the “emotions of the shepherds, their joy and wonder.”
“It is not just about commemorating the historical event, which occurred some 2,000 years ago in a little village of Judea,” the Holy Father told the 8,000 pilgrims who gathered in Paul VI Hall. “Instead, it is necessary to understand that the whole of our life must be an advent, a vigilant awaiting of the final coming of Christ.”
There was a Christmas atmosphere in the Vatican auditorium. Pilgrims from various parts of the world sang traditional carols more or less spontaneously, as they heard the Holy Father greet them.
“To predispose our mind to welcome the Lord who, as we say in the Creed,one day will come to judge the living and the dead, we must learn to recognize him as present in the events of daily life,” John Paul II emphasized.
“Therefore, Advent is, so to speak, an intense training that directs us decisively toward him who already came, who will come, and who comes continuously,” he added.
The Pope offered three spiritual “guides” as models to help the faithful achieve this experience: an Old Testament prophet of consolation, the immediate precursor of Christ, and the Blessed Mother.
First, the Pope recalled the biblical announcement of Christ presented by Isaiah, who exhorted his listeners “to remain vigilant in prayer, to recognize the signs of the coming of the Messiah.”
Second place, the Pope proposed the figure of John the Baptist, who preached “a baptism of conversion for the forgiveness of sins” — the “only condition to recognize the Messiah already present in the world.”
Lastly, the Holy Father presented the figure of Mary who in giving her “yes” without reservations, “becomes a clear light for our steps and the highest model for our inspiration.”
In this way, the Pope said, with “Mary and Joseph, we will contemplate the glory of the Word made flesh for our redemption. We will pray that all men welcome the new life that the Son of God has brought to the world by assuming our human nature.”
When greeting a group of 900 Croatian pilgrims, John Paul II told them that next year he hopes to visit their country. He thanked them for the Christmas tree that was lit on Tuesday in St. Peter’s Square, in the presence of Croatian President Stjepan Mesic.