In a meeting with pilgrims Friday, Pope Francis told his audience that at the first Christmas, Jesus didn’t just make an appearance only to leave again but came because he wanted to stay with us and share fully in our lives.
Jesus, the Pope said, came to “dwell among us.” He “didn’t just drop by on earth,” but devoted his time to us because he wanted “to share our life and fulfill our desires.”
Far from being just a day that comes once a year, Francis said, Christmas reminds us of God’s enduring love and constant presence among us.
“Jesus wanted, and still wants, to live here with us and for us,” he said. “He cares about our world, which on Christmas became his world. The nativity scene reminds us that God, in his great mercy, has descended among us to stay with us always.”
The Pope was addressing a group of people who had helped in the decoration of Saint Peter’s Square for Christmas: the Bavarians who had donated the enormous Christmas tree; representatives of the Province of Trent in northern Italy, who set up the life-sized manger scene; and the young artists from oncology wards across the country who made colored ceramic spheres to decorate the tree.
Speaking to the latter, Francis said they were off to a great start in their artistic careers.
“You are still very young, but are already exhibiting your works in St. Peter’s Square!” he said. “Well done! This is how Michelangelo got started!”
The Pope also reminded the participants in the adorning of the square that as much as they please the Pope and the many pilgrims who will see them, above all they please Jesus, because, “He is the one being celebrated.”
The nativity scene reminds us that “the Lord never imposes himself by force,” Francis said. To save us, rather, “he came in all simplicity, humility and meekness.”
“God does not love the mighty revolutions of the powerful,” the Pope said. “He does not use a magic wand to change situations. Instead He becomes small, He becomes a child to attract us with his love, to touch our hearts with his humble goodness, to shake up with his poverty the many who scramble to accumulate false treasures in this world.”
Francis closed by inviting his hearers to take time at Christmas to contemplate the mystery that underlies the feasting and celebrating.
“I invite you to stand in front of the manger,” he said, “because there the tenderness of God speaks to us. There we contemplate divine mercy, who became human flesh and who can make our own gazes more tender.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome