Brightly colored street lights, festive decors in shop windows, and goodies and ingredients for the Noche Buena at discounted prices—who wouldn’t be excited when the glowing atmosphere of the commercial Christmas machine is set in motion?
But we must remember that the pretty décor and festivities in the air can lead us away from the truest and deepest meaning of Christmas. “The first condition to live Christmas well is to give him his religious authenticity,” Paul VI said. (Read: St. John Paul II Loved This Cake—and We’re Giving You the Recipe for It!)
And isn’t that what Pope Francis always urges us to do? “In this time that leads us to the feat of Jesus’ Christmas, let us go against the tide: to strip ourselves, to lower ourselves, to give ourselves, to listen, to make silence, to decentralize ourselves, to leave space for the beauty of God, source of true joy,” the Pope said during a tribute to the Virgin Mary on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception at Piazza di Spagna.
This Christmas, Embrace Joy
A few days after delivering this message, the Pope returned to the theme, starting from the example of the first martyred Christian: “Honor the coming into the world of the King of Kings, from the testimony of Him and offer your life as a gift, as He did in the service of the neediest. And so it shows us how to live fully the mystery of Christmas.”
This does not mean, of course, that at Christmas we must seek martyrdom—but only that we must remember this feast through its deepest meaning: to truly welcome Jesus in our existence and prolong the joy of the Holy Night.
This Christmas, Follow Jesus’ Humility
The Pope explained: “These words of the Lord do not disturb the celebration of Christmas but strip it of that false sweet coating that does not belong to it. They make us understand that this is a road to follow Jesus in the humility, in the silent service, without fear of going against the tide and of paying in person.” (Read: Cardinal Tagle’s Advice Amid New Normal: ‘Be Humble’)
Let’s face it: These roles clash with what we are used to thinking of Christmas—from the gargantuan lunches, to the dozens of packages under the tree, to the race for the last-minute gift. The true meaning of Christmas, according to Pope Francis is not by how much material things we give, but by how much love we share with others.
This Christmas, Celebrate Family
For most, the center of Christmas is the family—much like the family in Nazareth because that is where Jesus was born, and that God gave us the gift of His Son. At the same time, He makes us all His children. (Read: A Father’s Prayer for His Children)
“To those who accepted Him, He gave the power to become children of God,” as we have read in the Gospel of John, Pope Francis says. With this, we certainly celebrate Christmas with the family, a chance to mend and re-establish relationships and let the children feel the atmosphere of the Christmas festivities.
This Christmas, Welcome Prayers
The Pope also teaches and reminds us that in order to welcome Jesus, we have to take on a more humble lifestyle, give up something (perhaps the gift that we have long desired?), and give to those who are less fortunate to ease their burdens and share the joy come Christmas Day.
He encourages us to not forget the importance of prayer lived in the depths of our souls. “The spirit of prayer gives time to God, comes out of the obsession of a life which always lacks time, finds the peace of necessary things, and discovers the joy of unexpected gifts.”