Pope Francis invited Christians around the world to open their hearts to the “light of Christmas” and reach out to those in need during the observance of the birth of Jesus.
In a message to the faithful on Dec. 6, the pontiff said no pandemic or crisis can turn off the light of Christmas.
Noting that the Vatican’s Christmas tree has been erected in St. Peter’s Square, the pope said it is a symbol of hope, “especially during this difficult time.”
Pope Francis, however, invited Christians not to stop at the symbols, but to go beyond and understand their meaning.
He said Christmas is “Jesus, the love of God, who was revealed to us to reach that goodness which has been poured out on the world.”
“Let us allow [the light of Christmas] to enter into our hearts and reach out toward those who are most in need” so that “God will once again be born in us and in our midst.”
The pontiff noted how John the Baptist, in the Gospel story, tells of how “conversion” puts people on a path of repentance and the quest for God and his Kingdom.
The pope said “conversion” means “to change direction and orientation; and thus also to change our way of thinking.”
“In the moral and spiritual life, to convert means to turn oneself from evil to good, from sin to love of God,” he said.
Pope Francis said “conversion” involves “suffering for the sins committed” and “the desire to free yourself from them, the intention to exclude them from your life forever.”
He said it is also necessary to reject everything that is linked to sin, that is, “the worldly mentality, excessive esteem for comforts, for pleasure, for well-being, for wealth.”
The pontiff said the abandonment of comforts and a worldly mentality is not an end in itself but is aimed at obtaining something greater: “the Kingdom of God, communion with God, friendship with God.”
The Vatican has earlier announced that the Christmas tree and Nativity scene in the middle of St. Peter’s Square will be inaugurated on Dec. 11.
The Nativity scene was donated by the Italian town of Castelli, which is known for its ceramic industry since the 16th century. The Christmas tree, a 28-meter high majestic spruce, comes from Kočevje, in Slovenia.
The inauguration will be presided over by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello and Bishop Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, respectively president and secretary general of the Vatican City State.
In the morning of the same day, the delegations from Castelli and Kočevje will be received in audience by Pope Francis for the official presentation of the gifts.
The Monumental Nativity Scene is made up of ceramic statues. It is a work created by the pupils and the teachers of the Art Institute “F.A. Grue,” the current state art high school for design, which, in the decade 1965-1975, dedicated its teaching activity to the Christmas theme.
St. Peter’s Square will see only part of the fragile collection, made up of 54 statues.
The spruce from Kočevje, a town on the Rinža river, one of the Slovenian territories where nature is most intact, considering that forests cover 90 percent of its territory.
Since the ancient times it has been a symbol of fertility, and in popular tradition it is often used in occasion of ceremonies as for the feast of the 1st of May or for the Christmas solemnity.
The tallest spruce tree in Europe, “Sgermova smreka,” measures 61,80 meters and is located on the Pohorje massif in Slovenia. It is about 300 years old, with a perimeter of three meters and 54 centimeters and a diameter of over one meter.
The tree and the Nativity scene will remain on display in the Vatican until the end of Christmas, which coincides with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on Jan. 10, 2021.