Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
Already last weekend we had many people who were wishing us a merry Christmas and about to leave for parts all over to celebrate the holidays with family or enjoy a nice Christmas break vacation. For those who are traveling this week, we offer special prayers for safety. May all your visits fill you with joy and good memories; where reconciliation is needed, may unity endure; where understanding is sought, may it be found. May love be the guide for every word and situation. And may the mystery of the Son of God come to birth in a tiny child in obscurity always cause you to find wonder and awe at the desire of our loving God to “stoop down,” as the Fathers would say, to raise a suffering world with his caring love. Merry Christmas.
For those who are traveling, I want to remind you that you can always find our bulletins posted on line, so you don’t miss our greetings or any news about upcoming events in the parish. If you haven’t subscribed, all you have to do is go to our parish website (www.stmaryfred.org) and at the lower right corner of our front web page type your email address in the box and click on “subscribe.”
Giving can become such a complicated procedure. For many, Christmas has become the only time during the year when we remember each other with a card (how often do you buy stamps these days?) or bake something for our neighbors. I actually put “shopping” on my to-do list this time of year. We wonder if something has happened to someone because we didn’t get the usual Christmas card in the mail this year.
I have never liked shopping. I always wonder why I didn’t just get this done last summer when nobody was thinking about Christmas shopping yet? Every once in a while there is a nice spirit with so many people out and about and looking for that perfect gift for someone in particular, if you are lucky. More often than not I am grateful that some visionary invented the internet and the “shopping cart.”
I know a lot of families, especially older brothers and sisters, who have pretty much lost the spirit of giving. The calls come, eventually: “How much are you giving?” Of course, you don’t want to give more than somebody and make them feel bad. In the same way nobody likes to feel like they got the short end of the stick. For a while in our family we wrote checks to each other for the same amounts and basically exchanged bank balances, an equal transfer of funds. It was either give up on it all together, or re-think the meaning of why we give.
The truth is, giving can never become routine, or it isn’t giving anymore, it is just a habit. Giving is something that shapes us and makes us different from all other forms of life in God’s creation. We give because we are made in the image and likeness of God, who gives. He gives his Son. He gives his life on the cross. He gives his divine life in the sacraments. Jesus literally gives his Body and Blood, his life, his Mother, his Spirit, his Mission of blessing from the Father. How many times we read Jesus explain that the Father has given everything over to him, and all that he has received from the Father he has given to us?
Notice the gift is always the gift of self. It isn’t a gift card or a lottery ticket, or even a shiny new car with a big bow on the top. It’s something better. For this reason we often encourage our children not to think so much about buying something, but instead making something of themselves to give at Christmas time. Something personal, because giving is meaningless if it doesn’t also involve a personal commitment of good will and love. The gift is only the expression of what is inside, a revelation, the invisible made visible.
Those actually are the words we use to describe Jesus at Christmas, the definitive Revelation, the fullness of love.
In these last days before the great Gift of Jesus, take a few moments in your busy day—commit to a few moments in each of the few days remaining—ask what might be your special gift to your family and those you love? To your parish family? What gifts has God given to you in particular? Ask God for the grace to be truly thankful for them, and truly strong in seeking ways to use them to make him known this Christmas, to bring him to birth in your life and make it visible. Above all, ask God for the ability to truly give yourself to him, and to those he loves.
God bless you.