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.”