What follows is Pope Saint John Paul II’s last Advent address, way back in 2004. He would go to his eternal reward three months later- his own and definitive ‘advent’ with the Lord, on April 2nd, a faithful servant to the end. Nostalgia is sweet sorrow, but God puts us in the time most propitious for our salvation. So onwards, dear reader, in these last few days before the great feast of Christ’s birth.
JOHN PAUL II
Fourth Sunday of Advent, 19 December 2004
1. The Feast of Christmas, perhaps the dearest to popular tradition, is full of symbols connected with the different cultures. There is no doubt that the most important of them all is the crib, as I had occasion to emphasize last Sunday.
2. Next to the crib, as in St Peter’s Square, we find the traditional “Christmas tree”. This too is an ancient tradition that exalts the value of life, for in the winter season the evergreen fir becomes a sign of undying life. Christmas gifts are usually placed on the tree or arranged at its base. The symbol thus also becomes eloquent in a typically Christian sense: it calls to mind the “tree of life” (cf. Gn 2: 9), a figure of Christ, God’s supreme gift to humanity.
3. The message of the Christmas tree is consequently that life stays “evergreen” if we make a gift of it: not so much of material things, but of life itself: in friendship and sincere affection, in fraternal help and forgiveness, in time shared and reciprocal listening.
May Mary help us to live Christmas as an occasion to savour the joy of giving ourselves to our brothers and sisters, especially the neediest.