Pope Francis, in his general audience Wednesday, urged pilgrims to keep Christ at the center of Christmas and to resist the temptation to turn the feast into a secular holiday.
In his address in Saint Peter’s Square, Francis told his hearers that it is easy to “mix up” our holidays, shifting the focus to the “things of the earth” and away from the spiritual message of the festivities.
“If Christmas is just a nice traditional celebration, where we are at the center rather than Him, it will be a lost opportunity,” the pontiff said.
Two thousand years ago, when the Gospel was first preached, Francis said, “the Lord warned us not to let ourselves be weighed down by ‘carousing’ and the ‘anxieties of life.’ In these days, there is more commotion than during the rest of the year, but this is the opposite of what Jesus wants.”
The pope urged the crowd to take responsibility for their own lives, not letting themselves be pulled along by the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, to keep the focus on Christ.
“Jesus did not blame the world,” Francis said. “He asked us not to allow ourselves to be carried along and to keep prayerful vigil at all times.”
The celebration of Christmas also has a moral side, the pope suggested, and must be lived as Christ would have us live it.
“It will not be Christmas if we look for the dazzling lights of the world,” he said, “if we fill ourselves with presents, lunches, and dinners but we will not even help a poor man, who resembles God, since at Christmas God came as a poor person.”
In his homily on Cyber Monday last month, the pope denounced the evils of “consumerism,” calling it a malady that saps people’s ability to give.
There is a disease against generosity, the pope told the faithful gathered for morning Mass in the Vatican, and it is called “the disease of consumerism.”
This illness, he said, leads people “to always buy things and to possess, but why? To have things just in case I need them.”
“Today’s consumerism is a serious disease,” Francis said. “I am not saying that we all do this, but consumerism — buying more than we need, a lack of austerity in life — this is an enemy of generosity.”
The pontiff proposed taking inventory of personal belongings to see where there is excess.
“How many pairs of shoes do I have? One, two, three, four, fifteen, twenty? Each one can find the answer. A little too much,” he said.
Last December, Francis offered a similar message, insisting that if Jesus is removed from Christmas, it becomes just an “empty” holiday.
He also warned that Christmas has been taken “hostage” by worldliness, urging Christians to combat the commercialization of the feast of Christ’s birth.
“Let us free Christmas from the worldliness that has taken it hostage!” the pope said in a tweet. “The true spirit of Christmas is the beauty of being loved by God.”
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