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St. John Paul II’s letter to children waiting for Christmas

Jakarta Indonesia Indonesia December 24 2019 Christmas Eve at St Yohanes Bosco Church Sunter Jakarta Indonesia

Greg PW | Shutterstock

Philip Kosloski - published on 12/20/23

St. John Paul II wrote a letter to children in 1994 that coincided with the final days before Christmas.
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Children around the world eagerly await the coming of Christmas Day and the celebration of Jesus’ birthday.

While most children are looking forward to unwrapping their presents, there are also many other Christmas traditions that capture their imagination during this special time of the year.

St. John Paul II recalled this time of anticipation in a letter he wrote to children in 1994:

In a few days we shall celebrate Christmas, the holy day which is so full of meaning for all children in every family…Christmas is the feast day of a Child, of a Newborn Baby. So it is your feast day too! You wait impatiently for it and get ready for it with joy, counting the days and even the hours to the Holy Night of Bethlehem.

Instead of focusing on the presents that have become a central part of a modern-day celebration of Christmas, St. John Paul II recalled the traditions many children have of recreating the Nativity scene:

I can almost see you: you are setting up the Crib at home, in the parish, in every corner of the world, recreating the surroundings and the atmosphere in which the Savior was born. Yes, it is true! At Christmastime, the stable and the manger take center place in the Church. And everyone hurries to go there, to make a spiritual pilgrimage, like the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth. Later, it will be the Magi arriving from the distant East, following the star, to the place where the Redeemer of the universe lay.

St. John Paul II even recalled his own fond memories of childhood traditions at Christmastime:

Dear children, as I write to you I am thinking of when many years ago I was a child like you. I too used to experience the peaceful feelings of Christmas, and when the star of Bethlehem shone, I would hurry to the Crib together with the other boys and girls to relive what happened 2000 years ago in Palestine. We children expressed our joy mostly in song. How beautiful and moving are the Christmas carols which in the tradition of every people are sung around the Crib! What deep thoughts they contain, and above all what joy and tenderness they express about the Divine Child who came into the world that Holy Night!

In many ways, St. John Paul II points to the beauty of Christmas viewed through the lens of a child. As adults, we often lose sight of the joy of Christmas and don’t experience it with any sense of wonder.

As we approach Christmas, may we approach the Crib as a child, gazing fondly at the Christ Child sleeping peacefully in the hay.

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