Christmas joy comes from knowing God loves and saves us, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As Christmas approached, St. Peter’s
Square was filled with balloons, singing and an incredible variety of Baby
Jesus figurines — everything from plastic figures that would fit in a walnut
shell to those that were larger-than-life sized.

For Pope Francis, the most important ingredient in the mix
was joy.

Reciting the Angelus Dec. 11 and blessing the Baby Jesus
statues children brought for their home or school Nativity scenes, the pope
insisted that the true meaning of Christmas should bring Christians a deep and
abiding sense of joy.

Unlike “superficial happiness” or even the
giddiness shopping can bring, he said, “it is a joy that touches the depths
of our being while we await Jesus, who already has come to bring salvation to
the world, the promised Messiah, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary.”

“God entered history to free us from slavery to sin; he
pitched his tent among us to share our existence, heal our wounds, bandage our
injuries and give us new life,” the pope said. “Joy is the fruit of
this intervention of salvation and God’s love.”

The Christmas decorations and lights and the Nativity scenes
being set up in homes all over the world are signs of that joy, Pope Francis
said. They are a call “to welcome the Lord who always knocks at our door,
the doors of our hearts, to draw near to us” and “to recognize his
footsteps in those of our brothers and sisters passing by, especially the
weakest and neediest.”

Pope Francis asked the children to pray in front of their
Nativity scenes with their parents. “Ask Baby Jesus to help us all love
God and our neighbors.”

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