As we prepare for Christmas, I challenge us to offer ourselves as gifts to others every day. Buying gifts for family and friends is fun and traditional, but this year, let’s think outside of the box and give our time, talents, and treasures – not as extra gifts – but as essential and life-saving gifts that lead us and others to discover the same joy of giving selflessly and sacrificially that our Incarnate Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ did at the end of His earthly life.
Ask yourself, “What can I give as a gift that another has not asked of me?”How can I find that perfect gift that reflects God’s unconditional love and mercy? That is easy… stop waiting any longer and forgive everyone on your naughty list! Reach out to them in a spirit of reconciliation and seek their help in moving forward united in God’s Body. In so giving, you receive an automatic gift from God… His forgiveness of you! You become renewed with His Spirit. It fills you with His peace and joy that only comes from reflecting His love and mercy to others.
This season, don’t neglect to shop for yourself! No, that is not selfish; seeking God’s forgiveness for your shortcomings is a gift of freedom. Through repentance and confession, you can renew your spirit and soul and let go of thoughts and behaviors that limit and imprison your potential as His sons and daughters, adopted by God through grace. He freely offers Himself to us, but we must choose to accept His gift, and in turn share it with others. The saints teach us when we do so, we experience inner peace, and in turn, the salvation of those around us is assured.
So far, your bank account has not been drained at all, but if you pursue this approach to Christmas shopping, you will deplete the pent-up ill will, anger, and thoughts of isolation and depression that go together with building walls between you and those you love and treasure as family and friends.
Perhaps as you shop for others, you will discover there are many of your friends and family members that you are close to, but who have never received the gift of your deep, inner, tender spirit of love and respect that you feel for them. What possible gifts could you give them?
Everyone enjoys the presence of your time… a surprise visit or telephone call setting up a personal face-to-face encounter with no agenda other than to “spend time” reinforcing another’s value to you and your concern for them. Stepping in to lend a helping hand to a shut-in is priceless. Helping our elderly to go for a walk or take them for needed errands is essential to their existence. Sending a surprise greetings card with a gift card or surprise gift as a random act of love will never be forgotten. In spending quality time, your listening ear reinforces to those in need you care, and they matter. You bring the presents of God with your presence, demonstrating clearly that “For where two or three are gathered in My name, I am there among them.” (Matt. 18:20)
Perhaps by now you have come to understand the shopping spree I want you to pursue in these days leading up to the Nativity of our Savior. Just as He freely offered Himself as our life-saving gift that will last for eternity, the surprise gifts I have suggested can lead us and others to Him. And for the most part, by sharing your creative talents and your precious but limited time, you will expend very little in terms of the usual holiday green (money).
In closing, consider me as a beggar for other beggars who are either too afraid or don’t know how to approach you and ask for what amounts to a proverbial dime… a small bit of your time, your talents, your treasures as noted above. While we may not consider them beggars, those deprived of your love and respect live as such through their feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. They are starving for your acknowledgment. They are outside your life, freezing cold from your being too busy to bring them into your warm heart and daily living. They often are ashamed and feel unworthy or helpless to live any other way.
My Lord, it’s nearly Christmas and there they are, ringing their bells and standing in the cold begging you to hear their pleas for help. They desperately need your love, mercy, and forgiveness. We know our Lord, Christ Jesus offers these for free, but unless you help them with your loose change that you wouldn’t miss – that is, taking a few moments of your time to offer your talents, they don’t see how they can make ends meet again this year. Remember Jacob Marley’s words in A Christmas Carol: “mankind is our business!”
And if those among us continue starving for our love and forgiveness this year, what have they to look forward to in 2019? If they survive, they can expect more of the same… a world that feels like neglect and apathy while others feast on the bounty that God continually hopes we will share together.
Wait… what is that beautiful melody I hear?* I know it refers to the Baby Jesus, but now that the beggars among us have been lifted up, it now makes me feel the coming anniversary of Jesus’ birth can have the same healing power it did some 2,000 years ago…
What child is this who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing; haste, haste to bring him laud, the babe, the son of Mary.
Why lies he in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding? Good Christians, fear, for sinners here the silent Word is pleading.
So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh, come, peasant, king, to own him; the King of kings salvation brings, let loving hearts enthrone him.
*[What Child Is This, by William C. Dix (1837-1898)]
My brothers and sisters in Christ, surely we have more than a dime to spare each day leading up to the Blessed Nativity of Jesus and even afterwards. Look at the joy in the photo below of the vibrant Body of Christ last Christmas Day morning… why not share this joy of our genuine selves from our jubilant hearts and not merely from our leftover time and talents. In so doing, we receive the real meaning of Christmas in our hearts. Let us greet Him Whom we know as Lord. Remember, it is Christ Himself, the crucified and risen One, the Savior of the world, Who comes to us with the gift of Himself on Christmas morning.
Let us convey to the world the Good News – Christ is born, the Savior of us all! Let us glorify Him! And that, my brothers and sisters, is a reason for rejoicing! And all it takes is that proverbial dime! Let’s reach in the pockets of our hearts and souls and let others know we care, God cares, and together, we overcome all obstacles, today, and to the ages of ages. Amen!
[Photos from Fr. George Tsahakis & Katie Wilson.]