The third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday because, in the words of the entrance antiphon, we are called to, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.” (Ph 4:4-5) In St Peter’s Square, Rome there is another tradition that emphasises the closeness of the Lord and brings much joy: Bambinelli Sunday – In preparation for Christmas, the Holy Father blesses the little statues of the baby Jesus.
Firstly, the Holy Father prepares by praying the Angelus, which is a meditation on the mystery of the Lord’s Incarnation. Then, at the invite of the Pope, the children raise their little statues of the Christ child that are destined for their Nativity scenes and the Holy Father imparts his blessing upon them. Following the blessing they return home to place the Bambinelli in a special place until they are finally placed in the manger on Christmas day.
Looking upon the little figures of the Christ Child is an invite to contemplate the astonishing reality of Christmas. God, the maker of heaven and earth, abandons heaven to become a poor child and to come ‘near’ to men. The innocence and beauty of the Christ child calls on us to respond by preparing for Him a place in our hearts. The simplicity of Bambinelli Sunday is a call to our complex world to remember God’s closeness in all the situations that we face and that this is a real reason for us to rejoice. The little statues of the Baby Jesus that we see are invitations to have an authentic Christmas by imitating the children who lovingly cherish ‘their’ Baby Jesus who comes close to bring us love, great joy and consolation.
Last year, Pope Francis gave this advice to the children that celebrated Bambinelli Sunday, “When you pray at home, in front of the Nativity scene with your family, let yourself be drawn by the tenderness of the Child Jesus born poor and fragile among us to give us His love”.
May we continue our Advent journey by preparing a place for the Baby Jesus in our hearts. May Our Blessed Mother bless us as we too prepare a dwelling for her Son in our hearts.