Simplicity, humanity of Christmas can be an antidote to pessimism, pope says

Pope Francis reminded Catholics this week against making the celebration of the birth of Jesus a sentimental or consumerist event.

The pope said the celebration of Christmas should instead be rich in faith even as the birth of Jesus has become a universal feast.

“Christmas has become a universal feast, and even those who do not believe perceive the appeal of this occasion,” he said.

He said, however, that a Christian knows that Christmas is “a decisive event, an eternal fire that God has kindled in the world, and must not be confused with ephemeral things.”

“It is important that it should not be reduced to a merely sentimental or consumerist festival,” said Pope Francis.

Last Sunday, the pontiff drew attention to consumerism, which he said has “hijacked” Christmas.

“Christmas must not be reduced to a merely sentimental or consumerist feast, full of gifts and good wishes but poor in Christian faith, and also poor in humanity,” he said.

“It is necessary,” he said, “to curb a certain worldly mentality, incapable of grasping the incandescent core of our faith, which is this: ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.’”

“This is the kernel of Christmas; rather, it is the truth of Christmas, there is no other,” said the pontiff.

“Christmas teaches us that God did not look down upon us and pass by but He fully assumed our nature and our human condition, except sin,” said Pope Francis.

He said the birth of Jesus “gives meaning to human existence and to the whole of history and can remove the pessimism generated by the pandemic.”

Pope Francis, flanked by Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza (left) and Monsignor Luis Maria Rodrigo Ewart (right), attends an audience to deliver his Christmas greetings to the employees of the Vatican, on Dec. 21 at Paul-VI hall at the Vatican. (Photo by Vincenzo Pinto/AFP)

Drama of history

The pope also delivered his catechism during the weekly general audience two days before Christmas.

He invited the faithful in his catechesis to reflect on “the drama of history, in which men and women, wounded by sin, ceaselessly search for truth, mercy and redemption.”

Likewise, he stressed “the goodness of God, who has come towards us to communicate to us the Truth that saves and to make us sharers in His friendship and His life, which is pure grace, no something we merit.”

The simplicity and humanity of Christmas, the pope said, can remove from the hearts and minds of people the pessimism that has spread, especially during the pandemic. 

“As we rediscover and become aware that the humble and poor Child, hidden and helpless, is God Himself, made man for us, we cannot allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by defeats, failures and the sense of disquieting bewilderment,” he said.

He said the birth of Jesus shows us that “God did not look down on us, did not pass us by, was not repulsed by our misery, did not clothe Himself superficially in a body, but rather He fully assumed our nature and our human condition.”

“He left nothing out except sin: all humanity is in Him. He took all that we are, just as we are,” he said.

The pope then called on Christians to prepare for Christmas by meditating in silence before the crib and to wonder at the “marvelous” way in which God wanted to come into the world.

The pope recalled meeting some scientists who talked about many things a robot can do for a man. When he asked about something that a robot will never be able to do, they suggested several things, but in the end, agreed that a robot can never give tenderness. 

“This is what God brings to us today — a wonderful way in which God wanted to come into the world, and this revives in us the human tenderness that is close to God’s tenderness,” he said.

“Today we are so much in need of tenderness and human caresses in the face of so much misery. If the pandemic has forced us to be more distant, Jesus, in the crib, shows us the way of tenderness to be close to each other, to be human,” said Pope Francis.

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