ROME – With Christmas just days away, Pope Francis on Sunday urged Catholics not to get carried away with buying presents and last-minute errands, but instead to focus on welcoming Jesus into their hearts.
“Let us go pray, instead of being carried forward by consumerism,” the pope said in his Dec. 20 Angelus address, urging faithful not to get wrapped up in thoughts such as, “I have to buy presents; I have to this and that.”
This is “the frenzy of doing so many things, but the important thing is Jesus,” he said, adding, “Consumerism, brothers and sisters, has stolen Christmas from us. Consumerism is not in the manger of Bethlehem. There we find reality, poverty, and love.”
Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly Sunday Angelus address, which is the pope’s only public audience still being held in person amid Italy’s holiday coronavirus crackdown.
On Saturday, the Italian government announced a new nationwide lockdown for the Christmas holidays, declaring the entire country a ‘red zone’ for the days of Dec. 24-27, and Dec. 31-Jan. 6, the Catholic feast of the Epiphany, meaning all shops and restaurants will be shuttered, regional borders closed, and citizens will not be allowed to leave their homes apart from certain “urgent” reasons of necessity.
The days in between, Dec. 28-30, Italy will be an ‘orange zone,’ meaning some shops and restaurants will be open, but for limited hours, and there will be restrictions on movement within regions.
Speaking to those gathered in St. Peter’s square to hear his Angelus address, the pope reflected on Mary’s response to the angel announcing Jesus’s birth, “let it be done unto me according to your word.”
“She could have asked for a little time to think about it, or even for more explanations about what would happen; perhaps she could have set some conditions,” he said. Instead, she “does not take time, she does not keep God waiting, she does not delay.”
Francis encouraged faithful throughout the world to say their own ‘yes’ to Jesus at Christmas without making excuses.
“Instead of complaining in these difficult times about what the pandemic prevents us from doing, let us do something for someone who has less: not the umpteenth gift for ourselves and our friends, but for a person in need whom no-one thinks of,” he said.
He prayed that for each person, Christmas would be an occasion of “interior renewal of prayer, of conversion, of steps forward in our faith, and of brotherhood amongst ourselves.”
Urging Christians to turn to those in need during the holidays, Pope Francis said those who are suffering “belong to us. It’s Jesus in the manger, the one who suffers is Jesus.”
“May Christmas be a time of drawing nearer to Jesus in this brother or sister,” he said, adding, “In the needy brother, the manger to which we should draw near with solidarity, this is the living nativity; the nativity is meeting the true redeemer in those who are in need.”
Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen