The true reason

On Dec. 25, we celebrate the day that Love entered the world. Jesus Christ, the Son of the eternal God, humbled himself and became human. God’s only Son willingly accepted the physical and emotional sufferings of us creatures, so that we mere sinners could one day experience the sublimity of heaven. That miracle stands as the greatest example of love for all eternity.

“What do you do for Christmas?” That is the most common question Jim and I encounter when someone discovers the number of grandchildren we have been blessed with. I admit that I am puzzled as to why people’s thoughts immediately travel there. I suppose it is because in our consumer-driven world where large families are considered not only an anomaly but also a burden, time and money become the major concern.

Life is expensive. Prices continue to climb: fuel, food, clothes, medical care. You name it. Fear of not being able to control the future makes us worry about the number of children we have. Hence, it follows that many times we limit the size of a family in response to the question of affordability. I understand.

Our answer to the above question is, “We keep it simple, very simple.” We began that tradition with our own children, and it continues today. Yes, everyone receives a tangible gift or two, but there’s a budget. We do enjoy watching our grandchildren’s delight at receiving something they had hoped for, but we also realize that the gift is a minor part of our Christmas celebration.

More importantly, we want them to know that each of them is deeply loved for being their unique self. We hope they understand that being together, enjoying their cousins, sharing a meal and making memories is the more important reason for the season. Knowing that they are surrounded by people who love them, who make time for them, who celebrate their successes and sympathize in their defeats, that is the better present.

No gift outweighs or outlasts love. This time of year, many families spend enormous sums of money to bring temporary happiness, but that happiness often wanes when the lights are taken down. Giving the gift of self throughout the year brings a joy that stands the test of time. The sweaters, the jewelry, the technology and even a car eventually fade in importance. But years after my grandparents and parents have passed, I still hold dear their gift of love.

Jesus was born in a stable (or some say a cave) to poor parents who had little worldly goods, but they were rich in charity and faith in God. Christ came to share that heavenly love with all. It is His agape love that allows us to see through the shallowness of our current times and strive to trust in God’s eternal goodness. In Colossians 3: 12-15, St. Paul describes the life we are asked to live.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another … as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts … And be thankful.”

Pope Benedict XVI captured well the reason for Christmas when speaking of St. Nicholas, “one of the first people to be venerated a saint without being a martyr.” St. Nicholas’ miracle “was one of constant kindness in everyday life.” Pope Benedict XVI said, “If we are to be continually lighting candles of humanity, giving hope and joy to a dark world, we can only do so by lighting them from the light of God Incarnate.” This is the gift that God blessed us with 2023 years ago, and this is the most important gift that we are asked to share with the people in our lives. Merry Christmas.