Each year on the Third Sunday in Advent (14 December – “Gaudate Sunday”), children in Rome gather with their families in St. Peter’s Square for Benedizione del Bambinelli. The children bring with them the Bambinello—the Christ Child—from their family’s Nativity scene. At the noon Angelus, the Pope blesses the children, their families, and the figurines they have brought. This Sunday we will unite our hearts with the Holy Father’s and the families gathered with him for the blessing of our own Bambinelli. Bring your Christ Child on Sunday, and the children will present them for a blessing by Fr. Allen at the conclusion of Mass.
The blessing of the “Bambinelli” as they are called in Rome, reminds us that the crib is a school of life where we can learn the secret of true joy. This does not consist in having many things but in feeling loved by the Lord, in giving oneself as a gift for others and in loving one another. Let us look at the crib. Our Lady and St Joseph do not seem to be a very fortunate family; their first child was born in the midst of great hardship; yet they are full of deep joy, because they love each other, they help each other and, especially, they are certain that God, who made himself present in the little Jesus, is at work in their story. And the shepherds? What did they have to rejoice about? That Newborn Infant was not to change their condition of poverty and marginalization. But faith helped them recognize the “babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” as a “sign” of the fulfilment of God’s promises for all human beings, “with whom he is pleased” (Lk 2: 12, 14).
This, dear friends, is what true joy consists in: it is feeling that our personal and community existence has been visited and filled by a great mystery, the mystery of God’s love. In order to rejoice we do not need things alone, but love and truth: we need a close God who warms our hearts and responds to our deepest expectations. This God is manifested in Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary. Therefore that “Bambinello” which we place in a stable or a grotto is the centre of all things, the heart of the world. Let us pray that every person, like the Virgin Mary, may accept as the centre of his or her life the God who made himself a Child, the source of true joy.
–Benedict XVI, Benedizioni del Bambinelli 2009