4th January

Well, today is my 54th birthday. Praise the Lord for my family – especially my parents – and another year of life!

So what is Christmas all about? In this interview Pope Francis links the Christmas mystery with the Jubilee Year of Mercy that we are currently celebrating.

FRANCIS has urged the faithful to never lose hope or fear the “tender­ness” father childof God in an interview. Asked what Christmas meant to him, the Holy Father said: “It is the encounter with Jesus. God has always sought out his people, led them, looked after them and prom­ised to be always close to them. The Book of Deuteronomy says that God walks with us; he takes us by the hand, like a father does with his child. This is a beautiful thing. Christmas is God’s meeting with his people. It is also a consolation, a mystery of consolation.”

“Many times after the midnight Mass I have spent an hour or so alone in the chapel before celebrating the dawn Mass. I experienced a profound feeling of conso­lation and peace. I remember one night of prayer after a Mass in the Astalli residence for refugees in Rome. It was Christ­mas 1974, I think. For me, Christ­mas has always been about this: contemplating the visit of God to his people.”

When asked what Christmas says to people, Pope Francis suggested that “it speaks of tenderness and hope.” He continued: “When God meets us he tells us two things. The first thing he says is: have hope. God always opens doors, he never closes them. He is the father who opens doors for us. The second thing he says is: don’t be afraid of tenderness. When Christians forget about hope and tenderness they become a cold Church that loses its sense of direction and is held back by ideologies and worldly attitudes, whereas God’s simplicity tells you: go forward, I am a Father who caresses you.”