Pope Francis Warns Christians Not to Become ‘Paganized’ at Christmas

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AFP Petras Malukas

Pope Francis urged Christians to be “watchful” at the beginning of the Advent season, warning them to avoid spiritual laziness and falling into worldliness.

“Even we Christians, who are also the people of God, risk becoming worldly and losing our identity, ‘paganizing’ the Christian style,” the pope told some 20,000 pilgrims and tourists gathered in Saint Peter’s Square for the Angelus prayer Sunday.

The pope encouraged his hearers to make the most of the Advent season, the four-week period when Christians prepare for the coming of Jesus at Christmas.

“Advent begins today, the liturgical season that prepares us for Christmas, inviting us to look up and open our hearts to welcome Jesus,” Francis said. “In Advent, we do not only await the coming of Christmas; we are also invited to rouse our anticipation for the glorious return of Christ – when at the end of time he will return, preparing for the final meeting with him with coherent and courageous choices.”

“In these four weeks we are called to come out of a resigned and routine way of life, and to go out, fueling hopes, fueling dreams for a new future,” he said.

The pope said that the gospel reading for the first Sunday of Advent “warns us not to allow ourselves to be oppressed by an egocentric lifestyle or by the convulsive rhythms of the days.”

The words of Jesus are particularly incisive, he added, “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap… Be vigilant at all times and pray.”

The key to a good Advent, Francis suggested, is to stay awake and pray, shaking off inner drowsiness that comes from being closed in on our own problems, with ourselves at the center.

“This is the root of the torpor and laziness of which the Gospel speaks,” he said. “Advent invites us to a vigilant commitment, looking outside ourselves, enlarging our mind and our heart to open ourselves to the needs of people, our brothers, to the desire for a new world.”

Along with vigilance, Christ urges his followers to pray always, the pope recalled.

“It is a matter of getting up and praying, turning our thoughts and our hearts to Jesus who is about to come,” he said. “You get up when you wait for something or someone. We wait for Jesus, we wish to wait for him in prayer, which is closely linked to vigilance.”

The pontiff also warned once again of the dangers of consumerism, when Christmas is reduced to a matter of buying and selling.

“If we think of Christmas in an atmosphere of consumerism, of seeing what I can buy to do this and that, of the worldly holiday, Jesus will pass by and we will not find him,” he said.

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