Opening the Gift of Christmas (Fr. Bill)
To be fully received enjoyed gifts must be opened. Today’s I draw from the wisdom of five great ladies (Holy Mother Church, Mary, Mrs. Santa Claus [and Mr.], Your Mother [and your father], and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, whose feast we celebrated this past Friday) to help us open the Gift of Christmas.
- Holy Mother Church – the Bride and the Body of Christ:
The Church celebrates Christmas in order to help us open the gift of Jesus Christ, the gift of the Incarnation which is the Gift of Christmas from God to us. This gift was given to Mary for us at the moment she said yes to the Archangel Gabriel; when the Holy Spirit came upon her, the power of the Most High overshadowed her, and she conceived a Child Who would be called ‘holy, the Son of God.’ This Gift of Christmas is a gift of infinite mystery, and wonder that can never be completely opened, comprehended or understood. Our joy is to continue the process of opening it every year.
The Church celebrates Christmas in the Year of Grace (the liturgical seasons). Through, with and in the liturgies of Advent and Christmas the Church opens for us and to us the Gift of Christmas:
Y Throughout the season of Advent the Church teaches us to wait in joyful hope. This mirrors for us the joyful anticipation with which we await the second coming of Christ.
Y On Christmas day the Church presents Jesus to us as true God and true man, in this moment true baby (not God faking it in the body of a baby).
Y With the Feast of the Holy Family Jesus is presented to us as fully human, the son of a mother and father to whom he was ‘subject,’ i.e. obedient. Jesus is unequivocally human.
Y On the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God (the octave day of Christmas after which we enter Christmas season) the Church honors Mary in a way that unequivocally identifies Jesus as God.
Y On Epiphany (the word means “the showing” – a good word for unwrapping a present) Jesus is presented to the whole world as not just the King of the Jews, but also the King of Kings. Jesus, the Light of the World, has come to bring salvation to everyone, everywhere at all times.
Y The last day of the Christmas season, the Baptism of the Lord, shows Jesus being baptized in the River Jordan by John the Baptist. The heavens open and the voice of God announces, “This is My beloved Son; listen to Him.” Instruction from God on how to open His Christmas gift to us.
Y The next Sunday the Church has us into ‘ordinary time.’ In cycles ‘A’ and ‘B’ the Gospel presents John the Baptist pointing to Jesus and saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” We continue to open the Gift of Christmas at every Mass when the priest repeats these words of the Baptist to us just before we receive Jesus in Holy Communion.
Y In cycle ‘C’ the Church offers us miracle at Cana, which brings us to our second great lady.
- Mary, the Mother of Jesus (the Mother of God):
At the wedding feast in Cana Mary says to the servants, and to us, “Do whatever He [Jesus] tells you.”
In these words Mary completes the circle she started in Advent with her words to the archangel, Gabriel, “Let it be done to me as you say.” Following Mary’s instruction and example is how we continue to open the Gift of Christmas every day of our lives.
III. Mrs. Santa Claus [and Santa himself]:
Our third great lady presents us with Santa’s song, “Jesus, It’s All About You” which she calls
“Santa’s Lullaby.” (The full lyrics can be found in last Sunday’s bulletin.) Santa’s name for the song tells
us all we really need to know about opening the Gift of Christmas.
- Your Mother [and your father] (as experienced through my mother):
As a small child my mom could be soooo annoying when she made us read the tag or (worse) the entire card on the gift so as to note who it was from, before opening the gift. Thus, the first act of opening was preparing to say thank you. This taught us kids to have an attitude of gratitude and Eucharist (i.e. thanksgiving) as we opened our gifts. How can we possibly say thank You to God for the Gift of Christmas? By a life of Eucharist, saying thank You to God with Jesus every Sunday at Mass. Once again: It’s all about Jesus.
- St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (in a conference to her spiritual daughters and to us) tells us how to say thank you to God and open the Gift of Christmas as a way of life:
“I will tell you what is my own great help. I once read or heard that an interior life means but the continuation of our Savior’s life in us; … And what was the first rule of our Savior’s life? You know it was to do His father’s will. Well, then, the first end I propose in our daily work is to do the will of God; secondly to do it in the manner He wills; and thirdly to do it because it is His will. … Be above the vain fears of nature and efforts of your enemy. You are children of eternity.”
We have but one week of Christmas left. But we have the rest of our lives to continue opening the gift of Jesus, the gift of the Incarnation, the gift of God’s Love, by any other name, the Gift of Christmas. Let us receive and open the Gift of Christmas every day. And let us do so as ‘children of eternity.”