At his weekly General Audience in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Benedict contemplated the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies in the coming of the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary in the stable of Bethlehem and reminded his audience to contemplate the mercy of God “who has come to meet humanity.”
The Holy Father told the 5,000 people present at the general audience that even nonbelievers perceive something “extraordinary and transcendent, something intimate that touches our hearts in this yearly Christian event.”
“Christmas is a feast that speaks of the gift of life. The birth of a child is always something that brings great joy, and the embrace of a newborn moves one to tenderness.”
However, the Pope continued, Christmas is in danger of losing “its spiritual significance, reduced to a mere commercial occasion to buy and exchange gifts.” The difficulties and uncertainty that many families are living in these months can serve as “a stimulus for rediscovering the warmth of the simplicity, friendship, and solidarity that are the typical values of Christmas.”
“Stripped of its materialist and consumerist trappings, Christmas can become the opportunity to welcome, as a personal gift, the message of hope that emanates from the mystery of Christ's birth," Benedict XVI explained. "Nevertheless, all of this does not suffice to capture the value of this celebration we are preparing for in all its fullness. We know that it celebrates the central event of history: the Incarnation of the Divine Word for the redemption of humanity.”
The Holy Father continued by noting that at Christmas, people do not limit themselves to commemorating the birth of a great person, they recall something that is quite concrete and important for human beings, something essential to the Christian faith.
“This is a historical fact that St. Luke the evangelist is careful to place in a particular historical context: during the days of the decree of the first census of Caesar Augustus… In the darkness of the night in Bethlehem a great light was lit: the Creator of the universe became flesh, indissolubly and eternally joining himself to human nature, to the point of being 'God from God, light from light' and at the same time truly human."
“But is it possible?” the Holy Father asked. “A God who becomes a child? We need to bow our heads and recognize the limits of our intelligence. God reveals Himself to us as a poor 'infant' in order to conquer our pride… He made Himself small in order to free us from the human delusion of grandeur that arises from pride. He freely became flesh so that we might be truly free, free to love Him.”
"Christmas," the Pope concluded, "is the privileged opportunity to contemplate the meaning and value of our existence. The nearness of this solemnity helps us to reflect, on the one hand, on the dramatic nature of a history in which human beings, wounded by sin, are perennially seeking happiness and a reason for living and dying; on the other hand, it exhorts us to contemplate the merciful goodness of God, who has come to meet humanity that He might communicate the saving Truth to us directly and make us to participate in His friendship and His life.”
“Let us ready ourselves to receive this gift of joy, of light and of peace…to become people who do not think only of themselves, but who are open to the needs and expectations of others. In this way we also become witnesses of the light that Christmas radiates on the humanity of the third millennium."