Christmas Lights up the New Year

Author: Pope John Paul II

In his General Audience on Wednesday, 28 December 1988, the Holy Father reflects on the light of Christmas, in which the second Person of the Holy Trinity revealed Himself in a humble manger.

1. In this general audience, which is the last of the year, it spontaneously arises to reflect, in the light of Christmas, on the meaning of the year that is ending.

We are still living in the mystical and solemn atmosphere of the great mystery, which we have celebrated with joy and emotion, reliving the birth of the Redeemer in poverty and in the silence of the grotto of Bethlehem. We have knelt with faith before the portal, adoring in that Child the infinite majesty of God.

Christmas is an essentially religious and Christian holiday, because the very Son of God, made man for our salvation, revealed himself in the humble manger where he was placed. He is the divine Word, the ineffable Word in which God expresses Himself, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, who became incarnate in the virginal womb of Mary, as Saint John writes in the Prologue of the fourth Gospel: "In the In the beginning there was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... And the Word became flesh and made his home among us. ( Jn 1 , 1. 14). So also writes the author of the Letter to the Hebrews: “Many times and in many ways God spoke in the past to our fathers through the Prophets; in these last times he has spoken to us through his Son... who is the splendor of his glory and imprint of his substance, and who upholds everything with his mighty Word ( Heb 1, 1-3).

Precisely for this reason Christmas is also called the “Feast of Light”, because Jesus is the Truth that is born in Bethlehem to be the “Light” of the world. Saint Paul says that “He is the image of the invisible God”, who “delivered us from the power of darkness (cf. Col 1, 13-15). The Second Vatican Council, for its part, after having highlighted that man with his dramatic questions "is for himself an unresolved problem, perceived with a certain darkness", affirms that the mystery of man is only clarified in the mystery of the incarnate Word... Christ, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and reveals to him the sublimity of his vocation” ( Gaudium et spes , 21d and 22a).

And it is precisely the message of Christmas that sheds light on the temporal, but also profoundly existential, fact of the end of the year.

2. The first reflection provoked by the passage from one year to another is that of the inexorable passage of time : Some days push others, the weeks follow one another with unstoppable rhythm, one month replaces another almost imperceptibly, and we find ourselves in the hand a new calendar. Our life is consumed; our years go... And where? Where is this time going to stop, which inexorably drags human history and the personal existence of each one? And this is where Christmas already spreads its first and wonderful light: Human history is not an absurd labyrinth and our life is not going to end in death and nothing. Jesus, with his divine and ineffable Word, tells us that God created man out of love and that he expects from him, during his earthly existence, a response of love, in order to make him participate later, beyond time, in his eternal Love. We know from Sacred Scripture that "we do not have a permanent city here, but we are looking for the one of the future" ( Heb 13, 14). “We are citizens of heaven, from where we await the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, who will transfigure this miserable body of ours into a glorious body like his” ( Phil3, 20-21). Certainly, each one must actively dedicate himself to the construction of the earthly city, carrying out his work and producing his own talents. But you must do it always remembering that "if this tent that is our earthly dwelling falls apart, we have a building that belongs to God: an eternal dwelling, not made by human hands, which is in heaven" ( 2 Cor 5, 1) . Furthermore, we can say that in good and bad, in joy and in pain, everything happens so that we can yearn for God, our absolute Good, and feel the longing for paradise, for which we were exclusively created.

3. A second reflection at the end of the year arises from the memory of the past: The media remember and synthesize these days the most outstanding events of the period that has elapsed. When reviewing the personal or public events of the past year, it is easy for us to be invaded by a feeling of having made a mistake and of bitterness, due to the abundant human miseries and the many sufferings that the daily chronicle has made known to us... Let us only think, in this moment, in the recent tragedy of the earthquake in Armenia and also in certain situations that have saddened the Church. Well, also and above all because of these painful events, Christmas unleashes its supernatural light, bringing the consolation of truth and the gift of inner peace. For Jesus says: “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, that I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your souls” (Mt 11, 28-29). God is infinite mercy, and he does not abandon anyone; whatever happens, sooner or later, let us abandon ourselves to the love of his Father! And regarding the Church, let us remember what Saint Ambrose wrote in his time: “Among so many currents of the world, the Church remains immobile, built on the apostolic stone, and continues on its indestructible foundation against the storms of the rough sea. It is knocked down by the waves, but not knocked down, and although the elements of this world, crashing against it, often resound with a great noise, nevertheless it has a very safe port of salvation, where it can welcome the weary” ( Letter , 2, 1-2).

4. Finally, the light of Bethlehem also illuminates the passage to the New Year . Indeed, to Bethlehem, as the Evangelist John says, came "the true light that enlightens every man... For from his fullness we have all received, and grace for grace" ( Jn 1, 9. 16). Christmas exhorts us and impels us to have confidence and courage to do good, to bear witness to the Christian faith with the integrity of doctrine and coherence of life, to commit ourselves to the work of personal sanctification, always raising our gaze to time towards eternity: "Oh most luminous day of eternity," exclaims the author of the Imitation of Christ―, that the night cannot darken because the Supreme Truth always makes it shine: Day always happy, always safe and never undergoing changes!” (L. III, chap. 48, n. 1).

5. Dearest! May the light of Christmas illuminate and accompany each one of you in your work, in your efforts, in dedication to your families, throughout the New Year that we are about to begin, and for which I give you my most cordial congratulations. May Mary, to whom we have consecrated a whole year of special meditation and more intense devotion, assist you and inspire you with the fascination of her example and with the tenderness of her maternal love!

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