The central message of the liturgy on the Third Sunday of Advent was the apostle Paul´s invitation to the Philippians: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I say again: rejoice the Lord is near!"
Pope Benedict XVI spoke on a cool, rain-sprinkled afternoon in Rome.
"The Mother Church," he explained before the Angelus, "while she accompanies us towards the holy feast of Christmas, helps us rediscover the meaning and the delight of Christian joy, so different from that of the world."
The Pope noted that so many families, teachers and catechists come to St. Peter's Square to have their baby Jesus figurines blessed. He remarked that he is filled with great joy at their presence and interest in keeping alive the tradition. He also said it is necessary to “try to live in the everyday reality of what Christ's Nativity represents, which is the love of Christ, his humility and his poverty.
The blessing of the Bambinelli, he added, “reminds us that the Nativity is a school of life, where we can learn the secret of true joy. This doesn't consist of having many things, but in feeling loved by the Lord, in making ourselves a gift to others and in loving ourselves."
Pope Benedict alluded to the Holy Family, who didn't seem to be “a very fortunate family” but were still "filled with intimate joy because they loved and helped each other and most have all they were sure that their story is the work of God, Who is made present in little Jesus."
The shepherds would have also been joyful in seeing the Lord despite their meager conditions, the Pontiff explained, because in the infant Jesus they would have recognized, with the help of their faith, "the sign of God's promise coming true for all men who love Him."
True joy, he said, consists in its feeling that our personal and communal existence is fulfilled by “a great mystery, the mystery of the love of God."
"To rejoice we need not only things, but also love and truth, we need a God that is near, that warms our heart and responds to our profound expectations. This God is manifested in Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary."
"Thus," concluded the Holy Father, "that 'Bambinello' that we put in the stable or the cave is the center of everything, the heart of the world."
After the Angelus, the Pope invited the faithful and pilgrims to pray with him for the four missionaries killed in Africa last week, so that the Lord “may take them into His House, console those that cry for their loss and bring, with His coming, reconciliation and peace."
Saying he shared the “secret joy” of his audience, Pope Benedict dedicated his Angelus address to the blessing of the "Bambinelli," the baby Jesus figurines to be used in family, school and parish Nativity scenes all over Rome.