“Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God’s humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity,” the pope said in his annual homily.
“Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light.”
Benedict, presiding over his seventh Mass as pontiff, also spoke about the image of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
“If we want to find the God who appeared as a child, then we must dismount from the high horse of our ‘enlightened’ reason,” he said. “… In this spirit let us celebrate the liturgy of the holy night, let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped.”
The pope also added that Christmas is tending to lose its meaning: “Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light,” said the pontiff.
By the way, last night thousands of Christian pilgrims and tourists from around the world arrived at Bethlehem for Christmas.
Celebrations culminated in Midnight Mass at the 1,700-year-old Church of the Nativity, built on the same place where it is believed Jesus was born.
According to officials, about 120,000 visitors were in the Palestinian West Bank town, 30% up on last year.
In order to spare Benedict a late night, Christmas Eve Mass was set forward two hours to 22:00 local time (21:00 GMT) from midnight. The Pope proceeded slowly up the aisle of St Peter’s on a mobile platform.
In his speech, Benedict urged the faithful to appreciate the story of Jesus’ birth, explaining that it would help “find true joy and true light”.
He also mentioned those who have to spend this Christmas in poverty and suffering.
During the evening Mass security was tight for in order to prevent repeats of the 2008 and 2009 Christmas Eve security breaches, when a woman wearing a telltale red sweat shirt lunged for the pope, having jumped the wooden security barrier. It was discovered that she had a history of psychiatric problems.
In 2008, the pope’s security managed to stop her before she reached Benedict. But in 2009, she grabbed Benedict’s vestments and pulled him to the ground. The pope wasn’t injured and continued along with the service, but a French cardinal standing nearby fell and broke his hip.
It is the second time when Benedict has mentioned the need to rediscover faith to confront the problems today. In his meeting with Vatican officials on Thursday, Benedict said Europe’s financial crisis was largely “based on the ethical crisis looming over the Old Continent.”
Next weekend, the pope will preside over a New Year’s Eve vespers service, followed by a New Year’s Day Mass. After that he’ll celebrate Epiphany Mass followed by his traditional baptising of babies in the Vatican’s frescoed Sistine Chapel. [Via BBC and The Telegraph]