Pope Benedict XVI- General Audiences
On the Birth of Christ
"Like the Shepherds, We Hasten Our Steps Toward Bethlehem"
H.H. Benedict XVI
December 19, 2007
Dear brothers and sisters!
As we approach the great feast of Christmas, the liturgy encourages us
to intensify our preparation, placing at our disposal numerous biblical
texts from the Old and the New Testaments, which serve to motivate us to
focus on the significance and value of this annual celebration.
On one hand, Christmas is a commemoration of the incredible miracle of
the birth God's only son, born of the Virgin Mary in the cave of
Bethlehem. On the other hand, Christmas exhorts us to keep watch and
pray, waiting for our Redeemer, who will come "to judge the living and
Perhaps we today, even we believers, truly await the Judge; we all await
justice. We see so much injustice in the world, in our small world, at
home, in our neighborhoods, as well as in the large world of states, of
societies. And we wait for justice to be done.
Justice is an abstract concept: Justice is done. We await the coming of
the very one who can effect justice. In this context we pray: "Come,
Lord, Jesus Christ, as judge, come as you must." The Lord knows how to
enter the world and bring justice.
We ask the Lord, the Judge, to respond, to truly effect justice in the
world. We await justice, but our demands with respect to others cannot
be the only the expression of this waiting. The Christian significance
of waiting for justice implies that we begin to live under the eyes of
the Judge, according to the criteria of the Judge; that we begin to live
in his presence, rendering justice in our lives. By being just, putting
ourselves in the presence of the Judge, we await justice.
This is the meaning of Advent, of vigilance. The vigilance of Advent
means to live under the eyes of the Judge and to prepare ourselves and
the world for justice. By living under the eyes of the God-Judge, we can
open the world to the arrival of his Son, preparing our heart to welcome
"the Lord who comes."
The Child, adored 2,000 years ago by the shepherds in a cave of
Bethlehem, never stops visiting us in our daily life as we, like
pilgrims, walk toward the Kingdom. As he waits, the believer becomes the
spokesperson for the hopes of all humankind; humanity longs for justice,
and thus, though often unaware, waits for God, waits for the salvation
that only God can give us.
For us Christians the wait is marked by assiduous prayer, as indicated
by the particularly evocative series of invocations that are proposed to
us in these days of the Christmas novena in the Mass, in the Gospel, and
in the celebration of vespers, before the canticle of the Magnificat.
Each appeal that implores the coming of Wisdom, the Sun of Justice, and
God-With-Us, contains a prayer directed to the Awaited one of the
nations, so that his arrival be hastened.
To invoke the gift of the birth of the promised Savior also means to
commit myself to prepare the way, to prepare a worthy home not only in
the environment around us, but above all in our souls. With the guidance
of the Evangelist John, we try to turn our thoughts and hearts to the
eternal Word, to the Logos, to the Word that has become flesh and has
given us grace after grace (cf. 1:14,16).
This faith in the Creator Logos, in the Word that created the world, in
the one who came like a Child, this faith and its great hope seem to be
far from our daily public and private reality. It seems this truth is
too great. We manage the best we can, so it seems at least. But the
world is becoming more chaotic and violent: We witness this every day.
And the light of God, the light of Truth, is put out. Life becomes dark
and without a compass.
It is therefore very important that we are true believers, and as
believers, that we reaffirm forcefully, with our lives, the mystery of
salvation that comes with the celebration of Christ's birth! In
Bethlehem, the Light which illumines our life was made manifest to the
world; the Way which leads to the fullness of our humanity was revealed
to us. What sense does it make to celebrate Christmas if we don't
acknowledge that God has become man? The celebration becomes empty.
Before all else, we Christians have to reassert with deep and heartfelt
conviction the truth of Christ's birth in order to bear witness before
all the awareness of an unparalleled gift that enriches not only us, but
The duty of evangelization is to convey this "eu-angelion," the "good
news." This was recalled by the document of the Congregation for the
Doctrine of Faith titled "Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of
Evangelization," which I would like to offer for your reflection and
personal as well as communal study.
Dear friends, in these days of preparation leading up to Christmas the
prayer of the Church intensifies, so that the hopes for peace,
salvation, justice, and all that the world urgently needs, be made a
reality. We ask God that violence be defeated by the power of love, that
opposition be replaced by reconciliation, that the desire to dominate be
transformed into desires for forgiveness, justice and peace.
May the wishes of kindness and love that we exchange in these days reach
all sectors of our daily lives. May peace be in our hearts, so that we
can be open to the action of God's mercy. May peace live in all families
and may they spend Christmas united before the crib and the tree
decorated with lights. May the Christmas message of solidarity and
welcome contribute to create a deeper sensibility toward old and new
types of poverty, and toward the common good that we are all called to
May all family members, especially the children and the elderly -- the
weakest ones -- feel the warmth of this feast, and may that warmth
spread out through every day of the year. May Christmas be a celebration
of peace and joy: joy for the birth of the Savior, Prince of peace. Like
the shepherds, we hasten our steps toward Bethlehem. In the heart of the
Holy Night we will be able to contemplate the "infant wrapped in
swaddling clothes and lying in a manger," together with Mary and Joseph
We ask the Lord to open our soul, so that we can enter the mystery of
his birth. May Mary, who gave her virginal womb to the Word of God, who
contemplated the child between her arms, and who offers him to everyone
as the Redeemer of the world, help us make next Christmas a moment of
growth in the knowledge and love of Christ. This is the wish that I
warmly extend to you all, to your families and your dear ones.
Merry Christmas to you all!
[Translation by Laura Leoncini]
[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in six
languages. In English, he said:]
I am pleased to greet the English-speaking pilgrims and students present
at this Audience, especially those from the United States of America.
Upon you and your loved ones, I invoke the Lord's blessings of health
and joy during this holy Season.
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