Merry Christmas! The Christmas season is a time to rejoice and give thanks to God for the beautiful gift of his son, our Lord Jesus! We celebrate the birth of the Christ child, born to bring love and hope to all.
What’s the right thing to do when offered a gift? It is to joyfully accept, open and use the gift. I knew someone who refused to open Christmas gifts until one year after they were given to him. To this day, I am baffled by such behavior. I can’t understand why someone would wait so long to open the gift.
Jesus Christ is the ultimate gift to all humanity. Let’s not delay in opening this great gift. Each of us should take the time this Christmas to open our hearts more deeply to the love of Jesus.
How do we joyfully accept and use the gift of Jesus? We receive Him most especially in the gift of the Holy Eucharist, His Body and Blood. Every time we celebrate the gift of the Eucharist we say, “thank you” and “yes” to the gift of Jesus. When presented the consecrated host, the minister says, “the Body of Christ.” We respond “Amen,” which means essentially “So it is. Truly. I believe.” This is a beautiful way of accepting over and over again the gift of Jesus. I pray that this Christmas will bring forth a renewed participation in our Masses throughout the new year.
With the twinkling lights and grandiose décor all around us, it would seem easy to be swept up in the celebration of Christmas. Yet there are things that can distract us from the joyous reality of God’s gift to us in Jesus.
In the midst of what is a busy season, take the time to reflect upon the gift of Jesus. I enjoy praying quietly while gazing upon a nativity set in a room only illuminated by the light of a Christmas tree. Find your own quiet time and place to pray, read the nativity passages in Scripture, and thank Jesus for the many blessings you have received from Him.
For some, it can be difficult to see Jesus while suffering through pain and loss. Many continue to experience concern and anxiety with personal or societal challenges. Rather than turn aside from the gift of Jesus, Christmas is a time to bring everything to him. We can open our hearts and let him know what troubles us. He is always ready to give himself and to receive us into his loving arms.
Jesus was born to be with us and to shoulder these burdens for us. We can lean on him, learn from him and be guided by him. We can cast all our cares on him, so that with Jesus, our lives can be grounded in faith and gratitude. As the psalmist says: “The Lord is my strength and shield. I will trust Him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.” Psalm 28:7
When we accept the gift of Jesus, we become transformed. The gift of Jesus truly is the gift that keeps on giving. We share Jesus with others without losing anything of what he has given us. The gift of Jesus can be multiplied to infinity.
Each time you let God love others through you, whether it be in a kind smile, through an act of service, or a generous gift – you extend the love God shared through Jesus to others. We should include in these acts of kindness a word of faith and hope. We should naturally find ourselves sharing about Jesus himself, the greatest possible gift.
A few years ago, Pope Francis quoted this key passage on the gift of Jesus:
“Knowing Jesus is the best gift that any person can receive; that we have encountered him is the best thing that has happened in our lives, and making him known by our word and deeds is our joy” (Aparecida Document, 29).
We are encouraged always, but especially at Christmas, to place our trust in Jesus, and accept through him the love and mercy of the Father. It is my ardent prayer that all of us in Northwest Indiana will open the gift of Jesus this Christmas season. I pray we find numerous ways to share the love of Christ with family, friends and all those we meet during this season of Christmas and all year round.
The Most Reverend Robert J. McClory
Diocese of Gary