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  A Christian Faith Magazine December 2002, Volume 8, Issue 5  
Christmas Gift
Most Reverend William E. Lori, Bishop of Bridgeport
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The retail industry forecasts a gloomy Christmas shopping season. Based on declining consumer confidence, the predictions are that we will be more Scrooge-like in our gift-giving this season. At the risk of incurring criticism from Kudlow & Cramer, I would like to suggest that this isn't all bad. Less than spectacular Christmas gifts just might prod us to focus on the gift we should really ask for, and the gift we should want to give.


The gift we should really ask for is exactly the one that God wants to give us. The trouble is, we're ready to settle for less. We habitually ask God for too little. So often we tend to ask the Lord for material comforts and earthly success when, in fact, God wants to give us so much more than a new car, a bigger house, or a promotion. We may even think that God is mean, stingy, or uninterested in us when, seemingly, He not only denies us the possessions and advancement we seek but even allows us to suffer setbacks, misunderstandings, physical suffering, and even the prospect of death. So often we try to fill the void with gifts that are supposed to compensate for what we think has been unfairly denied to us.

And all the while, we fail to see that God is seeking to give us more, not less. He is trying to wean you and me from asking for baubles instead of for Beauty, for trinkets instead of Truth. The gift that God the Father really wants to give us is not a thing, but a Person. God wants us to accept His Eternal Son, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Some 2,000 years ago, this Son assumed our humanity. He became one of us. And He came into the world to share our life, to preach the Good News of His Father's love, and to redeem us from sin and death. This is the gift the Father keeps on giving to us in the Church through Word and Sacrament. And this is the gift we so often reject, underestimate or take for granted.

Christmas Cookie

What a magnificent Christmas it would be if you and I really opened our hearts to Christ in loving welcome this Christmas! What love we would discover as Jesus reveals to us, again and again, how deeply our Father in heaven loves us - after all, He gave us His only Son! How convinced we would become of our real worth and dignity as sons and daughters of God, born again in the waters of Baptism and called to become the intimate friends of God. And how securely we would entrust our often turbulent and distracted lives to One who gives that peace which eludes the world.

"Without love," Pope John Paul II writes, "we are incomprehensible to ourselves." But in Jesus' love we find out who we really are in the eyes of God and who we are destined to become in what C.S. Lewis calls "the really real world of heaven."

The gift that God wants us to receive is also the gift God wants us to give. It isn't the Lord who demands that we become frazzled over an endless gift list. The Lord only asks that we give to others what we ourselves have first received as a gift - the gift of His only Son, Jesus Christ.


Every one of us knows someone who needs the Lord Jesus. In every family there are relatives and loved ones who have never discovered their faith, or who have stopped practicing it, or who have lost it altogether. We all know of people - relatives, friends, acquaintances - who have walked away from the Church during these difficult times - and for reasons that not only humble but also humiliate. And who of us doesn't know someone whose life has been shattered by personal tragedy and sorrow - people looking for that peace the world cannot give.

We may hesitate to give the gift God wants us to give. We may wrongly think that religion is such a personal aspect of one's life that we dare not meddle with it. Or, we may wrongly think that we can only begin to encourage others to discover or rediscover the faith when times are better for the Church, when the smoke clears, or when her teachings may be more suited to one's opinions and tastes.

But Jesus told us to be hold and courageous in bearing witness to Him: "Go . . . make disciples of all the nations " (Mt. 28: 19-20). And Saint Paul reminds us to bear witness to the living Word of God - to the faith of the Church - whether it is convenient or inconvenient, whether it is in season or out of season. (2 Tim. 4:2). Furthermore, the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that the Good News of salvation, as it comes to us through the Church, corresponds to the deepest longings of each human heart (see nos. 27-30, 851). Even those aspects of Church teaching which sometimes are difficult for contemporary ears to hear are part and parcel of the truth that sets us free, that liberates us from unredeemed ways of thinking and living.


Well, how does one give the gift of the Lord Jesus? This is not a gift that you can wrap in a box and place under a Christmas tree. After all, Jesus is not a thing but a Person. So it stands to reason that Jesus is given person-to-person. If, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we have opened our hearts to Jesus, then we can share His truth and love by word and example - by explaining the faith to someone who never really gave it a hearing, by inviting a lapsed Catholic to "come home for Christmas," by exhibiting in our daily lives the critical difference that the Lord Jesus makes. Often it is a matter of our reaching out in love to someone who is alienated from the Church or whose life is in turmoil.

Christ is the not merely "the reason for the season." As Pope Paul VI once wrote: "I can never cease to speak of Christ for He is our truth and our light; He is the way, the truth and the life. He is our bread, our source of living waters who allays our hunger and satisfies our thirst. He is our shepherd, our leader, our ideal, our comforter, our brother" (Homily, Manila, 1970).

May you and your loved ones have a most blessed and joyous Christmas!

This column is credited to Fairfield County Catholic monthly magazine.

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