Pope calls for worshipers to remember 'essence' of Christmas
December 25th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

Pope calls for worshipers to remember 'essence' of Christmas

By the CNN Wire Staff

Rome (CNN) – Pope Benedict XVI presided over Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, delivering a homily that focused on the "essence" of the holiday rather than the "commercial celebration" it has become.

"Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God's humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity," the pope said after recalling the story of Christmas. "Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light."

The 84-year-old pope, presiding over his seventh mass as pontiff, also conjured up an image of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, explaining that visitors must bend down to enter its low opening, drawing a tie to what followers of Christ must do to find their faith.

"If we want to find the God who appeared as a child, then we must dismount from the high horse of our 'enlightened' reason," he said. "... In this spirit let us celebrate the liturgy of the holy night, let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped."

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christmas • Holidays • Pope Benedict XVI

soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. hippypoet

    the whole of christmas is in essence a lie being that jesus would not have been born in dec. but rather in june or july... this is just a power play for the last holiday of the year sh!t...they stole every other holiday they have as well...nothing they call holidays have any merrit and are all built upon lies and death! down with the church and the nazi pope!

    December 27, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Ramon

      The wooden from the olive trees are now aleippd to generate spiritual presents. The authorities have ensured that no olive tree could be lower down for that objective of taking woods from them. The wood that's utilized for making religious presents are taken on the trunks of all those olive trees that have died due to their previous age or that have been lower down for routine maintenance intent. Carpenters within the Holy land make different types of statues and other religious gifts from these olive woods. Most of the people who visit Holy Land do opt for these spiritual presents which have been designed out of olive wooden.

      September 6, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  2. derp

    I want one of those awesome pope hats. That dude rocks the hat.

    December 27, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • Michael

      1 Peter 3:21? What if Baptism is God's work, not man, and flows from Jesus, clodun't it forice sins? If baptism does nothing, how does it rebirth you (cf John 3)? What about the historical witness of the Christian Church through the ages?

      March 2, 2012 at 3:01 am |
  3. RightTurnClyde

    The caroling, the trees, the Santas, midnight church services, the shopping frenzie, the house cleaning and gofering, the cooking (I did not do) and baking and hugging and kissing and gift wrapping and emailing. The warm greetings and well wishing. The reunions of families and friends. The warm toast of brandy or Drambuie.

    Now it is time for gift returns and check book balancing and getting things together for taxes. Time to reflect, savor, enjoy, thank God, settled down, make resolutions for 2012.

    Oh the kids were wound up like a spring .. whew... boys and girls .. lit up .. trains and dollys and clothes and games and cakes and pies and cookies (sugar) and fun-uncles and fun-aunties and so much fun...

    The non-Christian world does not know what it is missing. It's not just bibles and prayers .. it is families and love and peace and good will and the great "finale" hullabaloo to a wonderful year ... and another great year in Jesus Christ as the rest of the world wars and worries about the Mayan prophecy (as they do - we love one another in Jesus Christ) . We even love them and wish them well

    December 26, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • Bob

      RTC, stow your arrogance and your unfounded, absurd claims that others don't know the quirks of your silly religion and its crazy observances.

      Many of the non-believers here had to put up with learning about your sicko religion throughout childhood. It's sadly unavoidable in North America. We were just smart enough to see through it all, unlike you. Keep the good feelings (no religion needed for those), but stuff the religion as the turkey that it is. Along with its annual feast that was stolen from the Pagans.

      December 26, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • RightTurnClyde

      How funny. (Bah humbug). Gosh you are almost "Puritan" (are you from the northeast?). Curses, curses .. go on do it .. it creates stomach acid and ulcers. It's your stomach (you can do that if you want to). We choose otherwise and we rejoice in it .. Rejoice in the Lord always again I say rejoice. This the day the Lord hath made .. rejoice and be glad in it .. our time is short.

      December 26, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  4. Rainer Braendlein

    Christianity will be victorious finally, because truth prevails always.

    Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.

    December 26, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Bob

      Despite your claims of victory, more and more, the idiocies of your sicko relgion are being exposed here and elsewhere. Now get back to your required goat sacrifice, Whiner, or your cruel, unreasonable, unfair god will smite you and burn you forever in your idiotic Christian construct known as hell.

      December 26, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Bob

      And how come your omnipotent sky fairy can't do better than show his face once every 2K years, at best? Reasonable doubt on those grounds alone is more than warranted, yet doubt gets you eternal torture. No thanks. You can keep your non-omnipotent jerk of a "god" to yourself.

      December 26, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Rick

      Which version of Christianity is "the truth"

      December 27, 2011 at 5:38 am |
  5. M.F. Luder

    ""If we want to find the God who appeared as a child, then we must dismount from the high horse of our 'enlightened' reason," meaning that ignorance, children, is The Way.

    December 26, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  6. JohnR

    So why no article on T-Bone's 4 interceptions, including two pick 6's, on Christmas Eve? I think a nice little article on the credulity of the masses and the abject failure of faith would have been a nice little sugar plum for the holidays!

    December 26, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • Bob


      December 26, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  7. Rainer Braendlein


    Hi Reality,

    I understand that you criticize everything, which is connected with faith.

    However, Jesus said that wolves in sheep's clothing will enter the Church and obviously it has occured. Hence, the most Churches of today keep distorted doctrines, which were invented by the bad wolves.

    You should not make the mistake to equate the honorable and good Jesus Christ with the bad wolves, which have widely destroyed Christ's Church.

    I wish you a happy new year and that God may give you faith for free.

    December 26, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • JohnR

      Among the many other culture bound bits of idiocy that Jesus promulgated is this whole "wolves are bad" nonsense. Of course, shepherds who wanted all the sheep as their own to exploit considered wolves the enemy. But wolves are simply carnivores doing what they have always done. The fact that Jesus could so blithely buy into the tradition of human exploitation of animals and had such a nature-phobic way of speaking just shows how limited his intellect and morality really were.

      I don't know why you've sold your soul to this ancient superst-ition, Rainer. It's your choice, but an odd one. If you invested half the intellectual energy into questioning your faith as you do in dredging up esoteric arguments against other faiths, you might come up with something worthwhile, Maybe someday it will happen. One can only hope.

      December 26, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • RightTurnClyde

      Not so Johnr .. life is not an intellectual exercise. It is you being. Our Christian being is a journey from childhood to our final hour and we must LIVE more than simply think about it. It is a song we sing, an adventure we take, a journey, a poem, a reflection, life is a myth (Joseph Cambell), a love affair with everything - animals, pretty girls, cars, songs, study, learning, frontiers.. it is a great mixture in many aspects. Our Christian way encourages all of these things (Jesus lived it - joy, suffering, giving, receiving, teaching, mentoring).. Enlightenment? He said "I am the light of the world." Man without God is a composite of missiles and greed and failed ideas (like socialism and communism and dictatorships) .. N.Korea .. man's ultimate will imposed upon his fellows. Through Jesus man rises to a higher meaning and a sweeter life. Life is all you have and you can only live it once. We find that Jesus is the way. (we understand that others do not)

      December 26, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Reality

      Matthew's gospel has been analyzed thoroughly by many contemporary NT scholars. Some of their conclusions:

      Professor JD Crossan's analysis for Matt 7: 15 ("sheep's clothing etc.) (from his book, The Historical Jesus)

      Item: 401
      Stratum: III (80-120 CE)
      Attestation: Single
      Historicity: negative
      Common Sayings Tradition: No

      Professor Gerd Ludemann (Jesus After 2000 Years p. 153) on Matt 7: 13-23:

      "With the possible exception of Matt 7: 17-18, these passages are inauthentic and have been formulated by the community or by Matthew himself. "

      December 26, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      RTClyde. what did jesus bring to the table that humanity did not know before.

      December 28, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
  8. jameser35

    I'm reading through the lengthy, theolgical discussion above and I'm beginning to understand the basis for the limitless definition of Christian dogma.

    December 26, 2011 at 9:55 am |
  9. Rainer Braendlein

    What is actually the real faith?

    The real faith was restored by Luther. The Protestants of Luther's time were true Christians according to the Bible.

    Regretably the German Evangelical Church or Protestants corrupted very fast after Luther had died and they adopted the heresy of the cheap grace (the more I sin, the more grace will I get).

    Bonhoeffer made a new Reformation and the Confessing Church was established. The Confessing Church was a true Christian Church and they even resisted Hitler and the Nazis. Regretably, after the Second World War the Confessing Church disappered immediately, because the Confessing Church was united with the German Evangelical Church, which had supported Hitler during the Second World War. Of course the reactonary powers prevailed and the German Evangelical Church (EKD) of today preaches the cheap grace again.

    In order to get to know the real faith, you should read the book "The Cost of Discipleship" by Bonhoeffer or "The Large Catechism" by Luther.

    I know of no current church body, which keeps the true doctrine. Maybe some Russian or some Greek churches keep the true doctrine.

    December 26, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  10. Rainer Braendlein

    Catholicism and modern Protestantism cannot save us. That, we have yet proved.

    What about the re-baptizing Free Churches like Baptists, Pentecostals, Brethren assembly, etc.?

    They are damned cults.

    They are even worse than the Roman Catholic Church, because they don't even keep the sacramental baptism, but re-baptize.

    They believe that baptism is merely an act of obedience or of public confession of the personal faith, after someone has become a believer. By there second adult baptism they void the first baptism of someone (infant baptism). That is an abomination in God's eyes and leads to eternal fire.

    They do not grasp that sacramental baptism is the gateway or entry door to Christian life. They also don't grasp that faith is something supernatural and must be caused by the Holy Spirit. They confuse regarding something as true with faith, but even the demons and the devil know that Jesus had been crucified. Will the devil get saved for that?

    The real faith is the faith, which is assured by the sacramental baptism. I may have heard that Christ died for me on the cross and has borne my sins there, but after sacramental baptism I can be sure that Christ died also especially for me. The sacramental baptism confirms the doctrine of salvation by faith and grace alone.

    Only the sacramental baptism empowers us to follow Jesus according to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).

    December 26, 2011 at 9:27 am |
  11. Rainer Braendlein

    At the feast days Jesus suddenly becomes important for the society. Seemingly, the Western World limits Christianity on the feast days.

    I think many of us would like to meet Christian people in daily life. But this is, what happens extremly seldom. Although most Germans are still (nominal) Christians, Catholics and Protestants, most of them behave pretty secular or profane and you are not supposed to mention the name Jesus during the workweek too often. Most Germans are nasty Babbitts and assume that a "good" Babbitt would yet be a good Christians. They make a terrible mistake.

    What is it that people call themselves Christians or Catholics or Protestants, but behave very secularly or profanly in daily life?

    To a certain extent people don't want to suffer the drawbacks, which would be connected with true Christianity, but on the other hand they don't hear the true doctrine in the Churches, where they go:

    First, the Roman Catholic Church:

    Fortunately they keep the sacramental baptism, but unfortunately that is yet all, what they keep. They distort the true doctrine of baptism as follows: They believe that you have lost the saving power of faith and baptism, after you have committed sins. Because of that they add on a second "baptism", which are the so-called "good deeds". They claim you could gain God's favour again, when you go on certain pilgrimages, or when you fast, or when you pray, etc..

    This Catholic doctrine is an abomination in God's eyes. According to the true doctrine, our first baptism (infant baptism) is still valid after we have committed any sin. We shall not try to compensate our sins by good deeds, but we shall return to faith in Christ and abandon the certain sin, which we have fallen in. God will welcome us again and again and again ... and again ... .

    Conclusion: As the Catholic doctrine of "good deeds" is not according to God's will, it cannot release anybody. Catholics are damned to be slaves of their sinfulness and thus we can hardly expect them to behave as true Christians in daily life.

    For this all the pope is responsible, who has access to the records of the ecu-menical councils and the epistles of the fathers of the true Early Church and of course the Holy Bible. The pope had the power to reform the Roman Catholic Church, but he doesn't do it.

    December 26, 2011 at 8:31 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      What about the Protestants?

      I want to focus on the German Protestants, which keep the sacramental baptism (they do not re-baptize).

      At Luther's time the German Protestants were true Christians. Luther had restored the true doctrine, whereby he did not only refer to the Bible, as many assume, but he also refered to the Early Church, the fathers of the Church and the ecu-menical councils. Thus, Luther was in line with the Early Church, which had been founded by Jesus Christ himself and thus was and is the true Christian Church. Luther did not found a new Church, but he wanted to reform the Roman Catholic Church. All congregations, which became Protestant, had been Catholic before.

      Luther condemned the false doctrine of the Catholic Church, that we could gain God's favour by good deeds. Luther went back to the deliverance and forgiveness, which we can gain by faith and baptism or by mere faith (baptism is not more than an act, which facilitates the faith). Thus Luther said that we get saved by faith alone.

      How did Luther mean that?

      Did he mean that we, after we have started to believe in Jesus, can sin without limit?: "Let us sin more, so that we get more grace!"

      Never. Luther meant that the whole Christian life depends on faith and baptism. Baptism assures us that Christ did exactly for me and for you. Assumed, there would be no baptism, on could claim: "What has Christ's death and resurrection to do with me!" Here baptism is the solution. After baptism it is absolutely sure and assured by God, who cannot lie that I am connected with Christ's atonement, that means with the releasing power of his death and resurrection. After baptism I am empowered to overcome my personal sin. Assumed, I committed a sin, I can return to God again and again and again and God will welcome me again. There is no need to do good deeds, but to repent from certain sins and to believe in God's grace and love again.

      However, the German Protestants have perverted the gospel and thus they believe that God's grace is cheap and we are allowed to sin without limit. Allegedly, God is obliged to forgive us.

      Conclusion: A Protestant, which believes in the Cheap Grace, will not overcome his personal sinfulness and thus he is hardly discernible as a Christian in daily life.

      December 26, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • JohnR

      Yule and Easter both pre-dated the Christian feast days that attempted to co-opt them. Things are simply returning to their original state. Christianity is on the ebb and that is a wonderfully welcome development.

      December 26, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  12. Reality

    The essence of Christmas – 2011

    So after thorough analyses of the NT Christmas passages, what are a few of the conclusions of some of the top contemporary NT scholars?

    Matt 1:18-25: From Professor Gerd Ludemann in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 123-124, "The fathering of Jesus from the Holy Spirit and his birth from the virgin Mary are unhistorical". Ludemann gives a very detailed analysis to support his conclusions. One part being the lack of attestations to these events and the late time strata of said story.

    "Lüdemann [Jesus], (pp. 261-63) discounts Luke's account as a legend deriving from Jewish Hellenistic circles that were concerned to hold together the procreation of the Spirit, the authentic sonship of the Messiah and the virginal conception. "

    Then there are these additional conclusions:

    Bruce Chilton

    "In [Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography] (2000), Chilton develops the idea of Jesus as a mamzer; someone whose irregular birth circu-mstances result in their exclusion from full participation in the life of the community. He argues for the natural pa-ternity of Joseph and finds no need for a miraculous conception. In his subsequent reconstruction of Jesus' life, Chilton suggests that this sustained personal experience of exclusion played a major role in Jesus' self-ident-ity, his concept of God and his spiritual quest.

    John Dominic Crossan

    "In [Historical Jesus] (p. 371) Crossan treats this cluster, like 007 Of Davids Lineage, as an example of the interplay of prophecy and history in the development of the Jesus traditions.

    "In [Birth of Christianity] (pp. 26-29) Crossan uses Luke's account of Jesus' conception and birth to explore ethical issues concerning the public interpretation of the past. He notes the tendency of Christian scholars to disregard "pagan" birth legends while investing great effort in the defence of biblical birth narratives. He concludes:

    I do not accept the divine conception of either Jesus or Augustus as factual history, but I believe that God is incarnate in the Jewish peasant poverty of Jesus and not in the Roman imperial power of Augustus. "

    "The following ancient parallels to Jesus' miraculous conception should be noted:

    Birth of Moses (Exod 2:1-10)
    Birth of Plato (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, 3.45) [see Acts of Jesus, p. 507]
    Birth of Alexander the Great (Plutarch, Parallel Lives, 2.1-3.5) [see Acts of Jesus, p. 502f]
    Birth of Apollonius (Philostratus, Life of Apollonius, I.4) [see Acts of Jesus, p. 505]"

    And some final words from Thomas Jefferson, not a contemporary NT scholar, but indeed a very learned man:

    "And the day will come,
    when the mystical generation of Jesus,
    by the Supreme Being as His Father,
    in the womb of a virgin,
    will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva
    in the brain of Jupiter."

    - Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
    Letter to John Adams, from Monticello, April 11, 1823.

    December 26, 2011 at 7:58 am |
    • .........

      hit report abuse on all reality bull sh it

      December 26, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • SaRaah

      "I know how to get away with it, I'll home school!" Most trnioaal people would probably come to the same conclusion. Hopefully.This is a good point. Most abusers don't mean to be abusers. They fall into a vicious cycle and after each abusive episode sincerely apologize and commit to not doing it again. They aren't going to pull their kids because they think it won't happen again.The typical profile of an abused child is not one isolated from the world, but one involved in every free activity available: school, daycare, after care, camps, programs at the Y, etc. When I worked in the system, I kind of wondered when anyone had time to abuse the kids.There are those rare psychopath typess who explicitly set out to torture their kids. But strict monitoring isn't going to catch them.

      March 4, 2012 at 5:48 am |
  13. JohnR

    Translation of pope's message: "The old solstice celebrations belonged to the people. The church tried to steal it, but the people took their own holiday back. Waaaah!!!!"

    December 26, 2011 at 5:57 am |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      translation of JohnR message
      Waaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!! Waaaah!!!!

      December 26, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • JohnR

      Incorrect. You need to go back to Berlitz for a refresher!

      December 26, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      Right you are
      new JohnR translation
      BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!! Waaaah!!!!!

      December 26, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • JohnR

      Wow, Alfred, you most a really given both of your brain cells a real work out coming up with THAT one!

      December 26, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  14. Fry

    I see what they did there. They got the date wrong. This was posted at 1am on the 26th, not the 25th.

    December 26, 2011 at 2:30 am |
  15. Lyssa

    Well this is different! An article appearing between two old ones! Must be some good stuff in the CNN punchbowl tonite.

    December 26, 2011 at 1:08 am |
    • Timothy P

      Maybe they are just testing us to see if we are awake! They do not think like we do! Their ways are not our ways!

      December 26, 2011 at 1:22 am |
    • JohnR

      Given that they have another pope article today and this harangue was delivered yesterday, my guess is that someone was SUPPOSED to post it yesterday, but had a bit too much eggnog. Anyway, while some leftovers taste better the next day, the pope's blather is still just blather when it comes a day later.

      December 26, 2011 at 10:40 am |
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