VATICAN CITY – Make space for wonder and surprise this Christmas, Pope Francis urged Wednesday, explaining that the first Christmas had many surprises — including that God came into the world as a tiny baby.
The Blessed Virgin Mary was surprised by the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation, and Joseph was surprised by the angel in his dream who told him to take Mary as his wife, the pope said December 19.
There were no powerful people to welcome the Savior, the pope said, just simple shepherds, surprised by the angels while working at night.
“But it is on the night of Christmas that the biggest surprise comes: The Most High is a small child,” he said. “To celebrate Christmas, then, is to welcome the surprises of heaven on earth.”
Speaking at his weekly general audience, Pope Francis reflected on the surprising elements of Christ’s birth, and the way each Catholic can replicate the feelings at the first Christmas in his or her heart by making room for silence.
“Christmas is preferring the silent voice of God to the noisiness of consumerism. If we can be silent in front of the crib, Christmas will be a surprise even for us, not something seen before,” he said.
“Be silent in front of the Nativity,” he advised. “This is an invitation for Christmas, take some time. Go before the Nativity and stay in silence.”
Francis noted that since the beginning of Advent, the Gospel readings have warned against becoming weighed down by the “anxieties of daily life.” “These days we rush, maybe as we never have during the year. But this is the opposite of what Jesus wants,” he said.
We blame the fast pace of the world, but Jesus did not blame the world; Jesus asked his followers to keep watch and pray.
It is easy to get wrapped up in consumerism and parties this time of year, preferring “the usual things of the earth over the news of heaven,” the pope warned. “If Christmas is just a nice traditional holiday, where we are at the center and not him [Jesus], it will be a lost opportunity.”
We will celebrate Christmas well “if, like Joseph, we will give space to silence; if, like Mary, we say ‘Here I am’ to God; if, like Jesus, we will be close to those who are alone; if, like the shepherds, we will leave our enclosures to be with Jesus,” Pope Francis said.
“It will be Christmas if we find the light in the poor cave of Bethlehem.”
On the other hand, he said, it will not be Christmas if people look only for the “shimmering glow of the world,” filling themselves with presents and fancy meals, but do not help “at least one poor man.”
“Christmas is the payback of humility over arrogance, of simplicity over abundance, of silence over hubbub, of prayer over ‘my time,’ of God over my ego,” he said.
“Every one of us has, hidden in our heart, the capacity to be surprised. May we be surprised by Jesus this Christmas.”
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