Merry Christmas everyone! I am blessed to have been able to enjoy the holiday with my family, especially my youngest daughter, Grace, who is home from college, and my oldest daughter, Sara, who arrived on Saturday with her husband, Andy, and our granddaughter, Elsa. I hope yours has been filled with love, too.
Even though you won’t hear Christmas music on the radio any longer; in spite of merchants tempting us to spend our money on “after – Christmas” sales; disregarding the store shelves already stocked with Valentine’s Day candy; and overlooking the Christmas decorations being taken down and stored away, for us Catholics, we are just getting into the swing of Christmas. We still have eight more days to celebrate Christmas before the Epiphany of the Lord. Thus, I have no reservations about posting and sharing my Christmas experience with you today.
My wife, Grace, my mother-in-law, and I attended Christmas Vigil Mass on Thursday night. It was a beautiful mass, the church was decorated perfectly, the choir was almost angelic – all of which provided the perfect setting for the celebration of a reverent occasion, the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Since it was already Christmas when we returned home from Mass, we took a leisurely approach in the morning by sleeping in until about half past seven. The last to rise was Grace. The difference in the level of excitement and anticipation between this child who used to not sleep at all on Christmas Eve night, and the college sophomore she is now, was obvious.
Gift opening was laid back. Gone are the days of wrapping paper and bows being flung everywhere. Our approach this year was more methodical and appreciative. When it was over, we actually remembered from whom we received each gift.
Christmas dinner was a masterpiece! My wife, Melinda, out did herself once again. I could have easily over indulged but I honored the “one-plate” rule (said rule does not restrict how high food may be piled on that one plate). Dessert, however, had to wait a couple hours. And, we were blessed with guests who accepted our invitation for dinner and to share the afternoon with us.
Since Christmas was on Friday, I excused myself for an hour and drove to church for my regularly scheduled weekly Holy hour of Adoration at four o’clock. As I knelt on the prie-dieu and gazed up at the tabernacle, the special-ness of the occasion struck me. There I was, one-on-one, with my Lord, Jesus, on His birthday.
I remembered uttering earlier in the morning when I rolled out of bed, “Good morning, Jesus, and happy birthday!”, but this was much more up close and personal. A casual, “How do you do” and, “Oh, by the way….” didn’t seem fitting.
As I do with all my prayers, I started by giving thanks for the many blessings He bestows upon me, especially the gift of my family and our love for each other. I gave thanks for His love and mercy to me, never deserved but always welcome.
I realized there was a certain amount of irony at work here. It was His birthday, but He was the one giving and I was the one receiving. Nevertheless, I wondered what gifts Jesus was hoping for on this special day.
The first which came to mind was our gratitude for all the gifts He gives to us. I think there are actually two gifts wrapped as one in our gratefulness: our realization that His blessings are indeed gifts given freely through His eternal love for us; and the thankfulness we extend to Him through our prayers.
Another fine birthday present I’m sure He appreciates is seeing our love for each other, especially to the needy and ones less fortunate than ourselves. And, I couldn’t help but think how He must wish we would extend that love throughout the year instead of reserving it for His birthday celebration.
Then, as I continued pondering, the words from the first two lyrics to one of my favorite Christmas songs, Easier (The Song of the Wisemen)1 by Jason Gray, came to mind:
It’s easier to give a gift of gold
Than to give my heart for another to hold.
It’s easier to give You the things I do
Than to open my life and let You walk through.
Do I hide behind my offerings
While You’re hoping for the heart of me?
Am I the only gift
That You long for me to give?
In reflecting upon these words, I realized the most precious gift any of us can give the King of Kings is the gift of our own hearts. And, by extension, the best gift we can give to anyone – our family, friends, and fellow human beings in general – is the same: to step out from hiding behind our material gifts and give what really matters – our heart-felt love.
“Heavenly Father, please help me to be grateful for all your gifts, and to give the gift that really matters – my heart – to You, my family and to all Your children throughout the entire year. Amen.”
1Easier (The Song of the Wisemen) by Jason Gray, ©2012 Centricity Music
(The Best Gift to Give at Christmas was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
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