VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has asked Catholics to prepare for Christmas amid a consumerist society by listening to the voice of John the Baptist, who teaches us to celebrate Christmas as more than a party.
“Our aim today is listening to that voice to give space and welcome to the heart of Jesus, the Word that saves us,” said the Pope Dec. 9 from his apartment window to pilgrims gathered below in St. Peter’s Square.
The Holy Father asked Catholics to “prepare to see with the eyes of faith the humble stable of Bethlehem, God’s salvation, in this time of Advent.”
“In the consumer society, in which we seek joy in things, John the Baptist teaches us to live in an essential way, so Christmas is experienced not only as an outward party outside, but as the feast of the Son of God who came to bring peace, life and true joy to people.”
“John plays a great role, but always in relation to Christ,” said the Pope on Dec. 9, following the feast of Mary’s Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8.
He explained that the four Gospels place the figure of John the Baptist at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, presenting him as his precursor.
Quoting from his new book on Jesus’ infancy, Pope Benedict pointed out that “St. Luke has further moved the connection between the two figures and their respective missions. ... Already in their conception and birth, Jesus and John are brought into relation with each other.”
He noted that this helps people understand that John “not only is the last of the prophets, but also represents the whole priesthood of the Old Covenant and, therefore, prepares men for the worship of the spiritual New Covenant inaugurated by Jesus.”
“Luke also dispels any mythic reading that is often made of the Gospels and the life of the historical places,” said Pope Benedict, recalling the Gospel writer’s explicit mention of John the Baptist being born “in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor ... during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas.”
He spoke of St. Augustine, who said that Christ is the eternal Word since the beginning, while John is the voice that passed by.
Perhaps building off the theme of John the Baptist in the wilderness, the Pope also spoke of migrants, saying they often encounter little understanding among those they meet in foreign lands.
“In preparation for Christmas,” he urged people to have “a joyous and fraternal solidarity to come to the aid of their needs and support their hope.”
He called on Catholics to “not forget that every Christian is ‘en route’ to his true home, which is heaven,” before greeting pilgrims in several languages.
Pope Benedict finished his reflections by entrusting everyone to the “maternal intercession of Mary, Virgin of Advent, so we may be ready to welcome into our hearts and life Emmanuel, 'God with us.'”