Pope Francis greeted the donors of the Christmas tree and the Nativity scene in St. Peter's Square on Friday, recalling that Christ's birth in the manger shows that he never imposes himself upon us.
“He makes himself small, he becomes a child, to attract us with love, to touch our hearts with his humble goodness,” Pope Francis reflected Dec. 18 at the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.
“I give you my cordial welcome and thank you for the gift which you have prepared. They are very beautiful; and it gives me joy to think that they are not presented only to the Pope and to the pilgrims who will admire them, but above all to the Lord Jesus: for it is he whom we are celebrating!”
Pope Francis met with faithful from the Bavarian towns of Hirschau, Schnaittenbach, and Freudenberg, all in the Regensburg diocese, who donated the 105 foot Christmas tree adorning St. Peter's Square; and with the faithful of the Trento archdiocese, who donated the Nativity. He thanked by name Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg and Archbishop Luigi Bressan of Trent for their “courteous intentions and help” in the projects.
The Christmas tree was decorated by children suffering from cancer, who made designs based on their dreams and wishes. Pope Francis commented, “I would also like to thank the young 'artists' who have decorated the tree, and to congratulate them: you are still very young, but already your work is shown in St. Peter's Square! And it is beautiful. Have courage, go forward! Michelangelo began thus!”
He reflected that the children's desires “are now in the most suitable place, because they are close to the child of Bethlehem: they are entrusted to him, who came to live in our midst. Indeed, Jesus did not simply appear on earth, and did not dedicate just a little of his time to us, but rather came to share our life and to receive our desires, as he wanted and still wants to live here, along with us and for us. Our world, which at Christmas became his world, is important to him. The creche reminds us of this: God, in his great mercy, descended to us to stay with us.”
Pope Francis said the creche reminds us that Christ “is never imposed by force. Remember this well, you children and young people: the Lord never imposes upon us with force. To save us, he did not change history by performing a grandiose miracle. Rather he lived with simplicity, humility, meekness.”
“God does not like the dramatic revolutions of the powerful of history, and does not use a magic wand to change situations,” the Pope said. “Instead he makes himself small, he becomes a child, to attract us with love, to touch our hearts with his humble goodness, to draw attention through his poverty to those who worry about accumulating the false treasures of this world.”
Recalling that it was St. Francis of Assisi who began the tradition of setting up Nativity scenes, Pope Francis quoted the “Franciscan Sources,” which say the saint wished in doing so to “in some sense glimpse with the eyes of the body the hardships in which he lacked what is necessary for a newborn” and that in creches “we honor simplicity, exalt poverty, praise humility.”
“I invite you, then,” Pope Francis said, “to pause before the Nativity scene, for there God's tenderness speaks to us. There we contemplate divine mercy, made flesh so that we gaze tenderly upon it.”
“Above all, however, he wishes to move our hearts. It is beautiful that there is present in this creche a figure who immediately grasps the mystery of Christmas.”
"It is a person who performs a good act, stooping to assist an elderly person. He not only looks to God but also imitates him, as, like God, he inclines mercifully to one in need."
Pope Francis concluded: "May these gifts of yours, which will be lit up this evening, attract the gaze of many and above all revive in our life the true light of Christmas."