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Pope Francis General Audience Christmas Nativity Scene at Advent

Pope at Audience: If life is reborn it's really Christmas Merry Christmas everyone!

Pope Francis                              18.12.19  General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall
Pope Francis at General Audience: If life is reborn it's really Christmas

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning!

In a week it's going to be Christmas. These days, as we rush to make preparations for the feast, we can ask ourselves, "How am I preparing for the birth of the Celebrated One?" A simple but effective way to prepare is to make the nativity scene. I also followed this path this year: I went to Greccio, where St. Francis made the first nativity scene, with the locals. And I wrote a letter to remember the meaning of this tradition, what the nativity scene means in the time of Christmas.

The nativity scene is like a living Gospel (Lett. ap. Admirable signum, 1). It brings the Gospel to the places where you live: in homes, schools, workplaces and gathering places, hospitals and nursing homes, prisons and squares. And there where we live, it reminds us of one essential thing: that God did not remain invisible in Heaven, but he came to Earth, he became a man, a child. Making the nativity scene is celebrating God's closeness. God has always been close to his people, but when he was incarnated and born, he was very close, very close. To make the crib is to celebrate God's closeness, it is to rediscover that God is real, concrete, alive and throbbing. God is not a distant lord or a detached judge, but He is a humble love, descended down to us. The child in the crib conveys His tenderness to us. Some figurines depict the child with open arms, to tell us that God has come to embrace our humanity. It is good to stand in front of the nativity scene and there to confide in the Lord about our lives, to talk to Him about the people and situations we care about, to make a balance with Him of the year that is ending, to share our expectations and concerns.

Next to Jesus we see Our Lady and St. Joseph. We can imagine the thoughts and feelings they had as the child was born into poverty: joy, but also dismay. And we can also invite the Holy Family into our home, where there are joys and worries, where every day we wake up, eat and sleep close to loved ones. The nativity scene is a domestic Gospel. The word crib literally means manger, while the city of the nativity scene, Bethlehem, means "house of bread". Manger and House of Bread: The nativity scene that we make at home, where we share food and affection, reminds us that Jesus is the essential nourishment, the bread of life (cf. John 6:34). It is He who feeds our love, He gives our families the strength to move forward and forgive each other.

The nativity scene offers us another teaching of life. In today's sometimes hectic rhythms it is an invitation to contemplation. It reminds us of the importance of stopping. Because it's only when we know how to gather ourselves in silence that we know how to receive what most matters in life. Only if we leave the noise of the world outside of our homes do we open ourselves up to listening to God, who speaks in silence. The nativity scene is more than ever current, it is the topicality of every family. Yesterday someone gave me a very small nativity scene, a little girl, which was called: "Let's let Mom rest". There was Our Lady asleep and Joseph with the little boy there, who made him fall asleep. How many of you have to divide the night between husband and wife for the child or the little girl who cries, cries, cries. "Let Mom rest" is the tenderness of a family, of a marriage.

The nativity scene is more relevant than ever, while every day many weapons and many violent images are created in the world, which enter the eyes and heart. The
nativity scene is instead a hand crafted image of peace. That's why it's a living Gospel.

Dear brothers and sisters, from the nativity scene we can finally learn a lesson about the very meaning of life. We see daily scenes: the shepherds with sheep, the blacksmiths beating the iron, the millers making bread; sometimes we enter landscapes and situations from our territories. It is the right thing, because the nativity scene reminds us that Jesus comes into our concrete life. And, that's important. We should always make a little nativity scene at home to remember that Jesus came to us, He was born for us, He accompanies us in life, He was a man like us, He became a man like us. In everyday life we are no longer alone, He lives with us. He doesn't magically change things, but if we accept Him, everything can change. I hope then that making the nativity scene might be an opportunity to invite Jesus into your life. When we make the nativity scene at home, it is like opening the door and saying: "Jesus, come in!", it is to make this closeness concrete, this invitation to Jesus to come into our lives. Because if He lives in our lives, life is reborn. And if life is reborn, it's really Christmas. Merry Christmas everyone!