This is the season for gifs to be exchanged—the perusal and pursuit of the perfect gift, the purchase of the perfect gift, the presence and presentation of the perfect gift! (On line, perhaps, due to the pandemic, and you might consider getting gift cards to support small businesses.) Santa asks the children what they want. Husbands ask their wives, and wives ask their husbands. Children ask their parents, and parents ask their children. The answers to this question are as varied as the individuals who respond with: “My two front teeth, a new car, the latest Iphone, clothes, cash.” These are all legitimate answers, but are they what we really want for Christmas, or even need, right now, this particular year? Here are a few ideas that may prove more meaningful and enduring than the newest gadgets or the latest fashions or the hottest new toys.
What I really want for Christmas is a genuine love for my fellow man or woman. This is not easy to do when someone takes cuts, harms innocent children, steals from the elderly, or in greed extorts and hurts the poor, or despite division and politics. In a world full of deception, hate and greed, it is difficult to love; but it is what we are called to do. Give us the gift of unconditional love!
What I really want for Christmas is authentic peace in my heart and soul. Battles rage around us, nations are at war, we are a polarized and divided people, and families fall apart. It is not a peaceful world, but we are called to promote peace always. Give us the gift of peace!
What I really want for Christmas is inexpressible joy. Joy seems to fade as age and disease drain us of energy, take away our strength and our vitality. There is little room for joy when justice and fairness seem to be a far-away dream, or when the numbers of covid related deaths rise, or when bills pile up or businesses close due to lockdowns, or when those many disappointments break our spirit, or pettiness and mean-spirited behavior drives us toward bitterness and rage. Give us joy, O God in the midst of all turmoil.
What I really want for Christmas are those things money cannot buy, time will not devalue, and no one can take away from me. I want the things that no person can give me, and no tragedy can diminish. I really want those gifts from the God who promises love, joy and peace to those who give their lives to Him and follow His Son in a life of service. I really want those things that I can possess if I will accept them for what they are: gifts from the loving Father. They are available, and they are real, and they are found in a true relationship with Jesus Christ and each other.
We know that Christ entered the World as God’s perfect gift: His Son and our Savior. Jesus is God’s gift to us! We can never really ever match God’s gifts of love and mercy, His generosity and beneficence, His grace. However, we can try to emulate His example, and hopefully come close. Then maybe the world will be a little better place for all. The answer and idea is that we change our focus from secular to sacred, from holi-days to Holy-days.
These interesting times in which we live give us the opportunity to step back and re-evaluate our priorities and choices, to also value and appreciate much that we have taken for granted in our lives, in our presence, and right in front of us. Unknowing gifts have been given us, gifts we need to see with understanding minds and hearts—perfect gifts from God. Our challenge is to give, facilitate, express, and support these same gifts for each other.
Last weekend the final blessing prayer before dismissal from Mass said “May (God make) you be steadfast in faith, joyful in hope and untiring in love.” So, what do you want for Christmas? Saint Paul says it all succinctly in his letter to the Thessalonians: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks.” Can you imagine a family, a Community, a world where life is lived in this way? That would be gift...
Keep singing in your hearts! Rejoice!
Just a Note: The following prayer is César Chávez’s “Prayer of the Farm Worker’s Struggle,” which expresses what I wrote about as we struggle in this world. May God grant us all, everyone, the gifts of understanding and compassion.
Show me the suffering of the most miserable; so I will know my people’s plight.
Free me to pray for others; for you are present in every person.
Help me take responsibility for my own life; so that I can be free at last.
Grant me courage to serve others; for in service there is true life.
Give me honesty and patience; so that I can work with other workers.
Bring forth song and celebration; so that the Spirit will be alive among us.
Let the Spirit flourish and grow; so that we will never tire of the struggle for justice and peace.
Let us remember those who have died; for they have given us life.
Help us love even those who hate us; so we can change the world.