Christmas a time to seek purification, walk toward Christ, says Pope
Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI
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.- Jesus' birth invites all people to transform their hearts through his infinite goodness and mercy, Pope Benedict XVI said in his weekly general audience, Dec. 22.

In his last Wednesday audience before Christmas, there was a jovial mood in the Vatican’s Pope Paul VII Hall as the Pope met with pilgrims from all over the world. Some members of the crowd even sang Christmas carols.

The Church invites all Christians to contemplate the mystery of Jesus' birth and receive "the gift of his presence" in these days, said the Pope.

The sensations of "trepidation and wonder" mark the Christian path that leads closer to "the place where everything began for us and for our salvation, where everything was fulfilled, where the expectations of the world and of the human heart came together."

The Pope said that Christians share in the joy of those who first awaited the Savior's birth, and make the expectations of Mary and Joseph their own to grow from a renewed encounter with the Son of God. It is a time of hope in Christ's coming to save man from sin, the "single great promise" prophesied by the Old Testament.

The Savior's arrival helps us to understand the work of God, according to the Pope. Through Christ’s  presence on earth, "he bids us to become like him, to see the world through his eyes and to let our hearts be transformed by his infinite goodness and mercy."

"In the night of the world, let us still allow ourselves to be surprised and illuminated by this coming, by the Star which, rising in the East, has inundated the universe with joy," he said. "Let us purify our minds and our lives from everything that contrasts with this coming — thoughts, words, attitudes and actions —  spurring ourselves on to do good and to help bring peace and justice to our world for all men and women, and thus to walk towards the Lord."

Pope Benedict hoped that the "eloquent sign" of expectation represented by Nativity scenes everywhere would serve this purpose. He prayed that it be a "moving symbol of the Father's infinite love" for all men.

He closed his remarks by asking for the intercession of Mary and Joseph to bring renewed joy and gratitude to contemplations of the mystery of Christ's birth and hoped for a "holy and happy Christmas" that might provide new courage and new light for those on the Christian pilgrimage.

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