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Pope Francis prays in front of a Nativity scene in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican during his weekly general audience yesterday (CNS/Lola Gomez)

Exchanging Christmas gifts and organising holiday parties are all well and good, but Christians should contemplate the scene of Jesus’ birth to recover what is truly important during the Christmas season, Pope Francis said yesterday. Source: OSV News.

At his weekly general audience, the Pope told people that “the risk of losing what matters in life is great, and paradoxically increases at Christmas”.

“The atmosphere of Christmas is changing,” he said. “It’s true, if people want to give presents, that’s good, but with the frenzy of shopping, ‘go, go, go,’ this pulls one’s attention somewhere else, and there is not that simplicity of Christmas.”

For people caught up in the holiday rush, “there is no interior space for wonder” before the mystery of Jesus’ birth, but “only to organise parties”, he said.

Organising parties is fine, “but with what spirit do I do that?” he encouraged people to ask.

Recalling the first Nativity scene – a live one – staged by St Francis of Assisi 800 years ago in Greccio, Italy, the Pope said that the Nativity scenes being prepared by Christians around the world should provoke a sense of amazement in the humility of a God who became human.

“If we Christians look at the Nativity as something nice, something historic, even religious, and pray, that is not enough,” he said. “Before the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, before the birth of Jesus, one needs a religious attitude of wonder. If I, before the mysteries, don’t arrive at this wonder, my faith is simply superficial.”

Pope Francis ended his audience by asking people not to forget those who suffer because of war, particularly those in Palestine, Israel and Ukraine.

“Let us think of the children in war, the things they see; let us go to the Nativity scene and ask Jesus for peace,” the Pope said. “He is the prince of peace.”


Pope: Gifts and parties are OK, but don’t forget Jesus at Christmas (By Justin McLellan, OSV News)