Vatican City, Dec 7, 2018 / 09:30 am (CNA).- As the Vatican illuminated its 65-foot Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square Friday, Pope Francis shared the deeper meaning found in the traditional festive spruce.
The signs and symbols found in Christmas traditions can “help us to contemplate the mystery of God made man to be close to each one of us,” Francis said Dec. 7.
“The Christmas tree with its lights reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world, the light of the soul that drives away the darkness of animosity and makes room for forgiveness,” he continued.
The great height of this year’s Christmas tree — cut from Italy’s Cansiglio forest — symbolizes that the Son of God, who lowered himself in assuming the human condition to draw man up to himself, the pope explained.
God raises man “from the fogs of selfishness and sin” and invites him to “participate in his divine and incorruptible nature.”
The Vatican also unveiled the annual nativity scene in St. Peter’s square, this year sculpted entirely out of sand. The 52-foot-wide sand sculpture of Mary, Joseph, the Child Jesus, and an angel was created by four international artists using around 700 tons of sand brought from the Dolomites.
The concept of a sand nativity originated from a tradition from the Northern Italian beach-town of Jesolo, where professional sand sculptors from around the world create original renderings of the nativity and other Christian stories for locals and visitors to enjoy each Christmas season.
Pope Francis reflected that sand is a humble, poor material that “recalls the simplicity, the smallness with which God showed himself at the birth of Jesus in the precariousness of Bethlehem.”
“Contemplating the God child, who emanates light in the humility of the nativity scene, we can also become witnesses of humility, tenderness and goodness,” Francis said.
Pope Francis encouraged families and communities come together to reflect upon the meaning of these Christmas traditions:
“The nativity and the tree, fascinating symbols of Christmas, can bring families and meeting places a reflection of the light and tenderness of God to help everyone to live the feast of the birth of Jesus.”