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 CNS Story:

POPE-AUDIENCE Jan-9-2013 (360 words) With photos. xxxi

Christmas is time for awe, giving oneself to others, pope says

Pope Benedict XVI greets the crowd as he begins his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 9. Also pictured is Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household and the pope's personal secretary. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Since everyone experiences joy at receiving a gift that comes from the heart, Christians should be in absolute awe at Christmastime when they remember God's gift of himself, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"The original Christmas gift," he said, was the gift of God becoming flesh in Jesus Christ and giving his life for the salvation of the world.

"It is important to recover our awe in the face of this mystery and to allow ourselves to be enveloped by the greatness" of the Incarnation, Pope Benedict said during his weekly general audience Jan. 9, continuing a series of audience talks on the meaning of Christmas.

In the liturgical calendar, "Christmastide" runs to the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which is Jan. 13 this year.

Reflecting on the Incarnation, Pope Benedict said the Gospel phrase "the Word became flesh" is repeated so often, and Christmastime brings so many extra obligations and events, that sometimes Christians lose sight of the fact that Christmas celebrates "something absolutely unthinkable, something only God could do and something we can accept only with faith."

The Incarnation "demonstrates the unheard-of realism of divine love," he said. God does not simply communicate with his human creatures, "he emerges himself in our history and takes on the struggle and the weight of human life."

In Jesus, the pope said, God was born in a real place, grew up in a real family, did real work with his hands, walked on real paths, formed friendships and instructed his disciples in the faith, suffered and died on the cross.

"God's way of acting here should cause us to ask ourselves about the realism of our faith, which should not be limited to the realm of feelings, emotions, but must enter into the concreteness of our existence and must touch our daily lives and orient them in a practical way," he said.

God's gift of himself should also teach Christians how to give, he said. "It's not important if a gift is expensive or not; someone who is not able to give even a bit of himself gives too little."

- - -

Editor's Note: The text of the pope's audience remarks in English is posted online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2013/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20130109_en.html.

The text of the pope's audience remarks in Spanish is posted online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2011/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20130109_sp.html.


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