The Pope, who led the recitation of the midday Angelus from the window of his study, referred today to the tradition of setting up a Nativity crib in homes as a way of presenting the Christian faith, especially to children.
In fact, on this occasion there were many children gathered below in St. Peter\'s Square. Following a Roman custom, they came with images of the Child Jesus for the Holy Father to bless, which they will later place in cribs at home.
\"In the present-day consumer society,\" Benedict XVI said, \"this period suffers, unfortunately, a sort of commercial \'contamination,\' which runs the risk of altering its authentic spirit.\"
The authentic spirit of Christmas, he noted, is \"characterized by recollection, sobriety, a joy that is not exterior but profound.\"
For this reason, the Pontiff encouraged believers to prepare for Christmas with the sentiments of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to \"predispose ourselves with sincerity of heart and openness of spirit to recognize the Son of God in the Child of Bethlehem, come to earth for our redemption.\"
In this connection, Benedict XVI encouraged the faithful to continue the custom of setting up the crib at home, as it \"can be a simple but effective way of presenting the faith and transmitting it to one\'s children.\"
\"The manger helps us to contemplate the mystery of God\'s love who revealed himself in the poverty and simplicity of the Bethlehem cave,\" he explained.
In this context, the Holy Father recalled the first known living crib, realized in 1223 by St. Francis of Assisi, in the town of Greccio. This tradition, he clarified, \"still keeps its value for evangelization today.\"
\"The crib can help us, in fact, to understand the secret of the true Christmas, because it speaks of humility and the merciful goodness of Christ, who \'though he was rich, yet for our sake he became poor,\'\" noted the Pontiff.
\"His poverty enriches those who embrace it and Christmas brings joy and peace to those who, as the shepherds, accept in Bethlehem the words of the angel: \'And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger,\'\" he added.
For the Pope, \"it continues to be a sign also for us, men and women of the 21st century. There is no other Christmas.\"
The Holy Father concluded his Sunday meeting greeting the faithful in French, English, German, Spanish, Polish and Italian.