Pope John Paul II skipped his regular comments on the psalms and canticles of Vespers to focus the last general audience of the year on an encouraging message of Christian hope for Advent and Christmas.
Since the last two Wednesdays of the year will coincide with Christmas eve and New Year’s day, the next regular general audience will take place on January 7, 2004.
Speaking about “An Advent of Hope,” before some 10,000 pilgrims, the Pontiff said, “Advent keeps alive the wait for Christ who will come to visit us with His salvation, fully realizing His kingdom of justice and peace.”
“The annual commemoration of the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem,” he continued, “renews in the hearts of believers the certainty that God keeps faithful to His promises. Therefore, Advent is a powerful proclamation of hope that touches our personal and common experience deeply.”
After emphasizing that all human beings “dream of a more just and unified world where dignified conditions of life and peaceful coexistence make relations among individuals and peoples harmonious,” he said: “Often it is not this way. The mystery of Christmas, which we will relive in a few days, assures us that God is Emmanuel – God with us.” “Therefore,” the Pope said, “we must never feel alone. He is close to us, He became one of us in the virginal womb of Mary. He shared in our earthly pilgrimage, guaranteeing us the joy and peace which we aspire to from the depths of our being.”
The Holy Father said later that Advent highlights “a second element of hope which regards more generally the meaning and value of life.
John Paul then asked: “What meaning do our accomplishments on earth have, what awaits us after death? Are the search for greater material well-being, the pursuit of ever-more advanced social, scientific and economic goals enough to satisfy the most intimate aspirations of our soul?”
“Today’s liturgy invites us to amplify our vision and to contemplate the wisdom of God who comes to us from on high,” he responded.
A third element of Christian hope is that “God has taken the initiative to come in contact with man. Becoming a child, Jesus assumed our nature and established His alliance with all of humanity forever.”
“The meaning of Christian hope which Advents proposes,” he concluded, “is that of confident hope, of docility and joyful openness in encountering the Lord. He came to Bethlehem to be with us forever.”