VATICAN CITY – The commercial side of Christmas can suck even the best of us in, luring us with shining lights and after-Christmas sales. But during his latest papal audience, Pope Francis reminded Christians to keep Christ at the center of the Christmas celebrations.
“If we take him away, the lights go out and everything become fake, illusory,” Pope Francis said during his weekly general audience on December 27. “Without Jesus, there is no Christmas. It’s some other celebration, but it isn’t Christmas,” he said. His statements were greeted with applause from the audience gathered in Paul VI Hall.
Pope Francis pointed out the symbolism of the liturgy of the Christmas season. The nativity scenes set up around the Vatican, the traditional Christmas carols, and the liturgy of the Mass all serve as a reminder of the day Christ was born into the world.
Unfortunately, Europe has witnessed a distortion of Christmas, Pope Francis commented. “In the name of a false respect that isn’t Christina, which often hides the will to marginalize faith, every reference to the birth of Jesus is eliminated from this feast,” he told those gathered. But without Christ and a celebration of His birth, Christmas doesn’t make any sense. It becomes an empty celebration.
The answer to rekindle a knowledge of the real reason for the season lies in the Church and scripture. Pope Francis said: “Through the proclamation of the Church, we, as Pastors of the Gospel, are guided to seek and to find the true light, that of Jesus that, making Himself man as us, shows Himself in an astonishing way: He is born of a poor unknown girl, who gives birth to Him in a stable, with only her husband’s help . . . the world isn’t aware of anything, but in Heaven the angels, who know what it is, exult!”
Christians today are called to proclaim the news of Christ’s coming. Although the world prefers darkness, and is often unaware of Christ’s presence, the mission call of the Church encourages every baptized Christian to spread the good news of Christ’s birth.
“The true gift for us is Jesus, and, like Him, we want to be gift for others,” Pope Francis said. “And, as we want to be gift for others, we exchange gifts as sign, as signal of this attitude that Jesus teaches us: He, sent by the Father, was a gift for us, and we are gifts for others.”
The audience with Pope Francis finished with a singing of the Our Father and a blessing.