I'm tired of buying presents at Christmas. Isn't there something else?
Over 2,000 years ago, God sent into the world – for you and for me – a very special gift, a present that is beyond compare, the presence of the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ.
Though he was God and king, he came into this world a helpless baby. He lived the life of a human being in a very special way. He did not shower an abundance of material goods on people during his ministry but he gave them his personal presence.
He reached out to those in need, the sick, the blind, the lame. He touched them and spoke to them and asked them what they wanted. He treated them as worthwhile persons. He gave them gifts of inner and physical healing, of forgiveness of sin, of dignity and justice.
Today, in our hurried pace of life, the period before Christmas, Advent, is often spent rushing around buying gifts. Although there is nothing wrong with gift-giving, our culture promotes the idea that only material things count, that they will give us happiness and prove our love to our family and friends. Even though research consistently shows that relationships are far more important, we too often succumb to the commercialism.
We have the most sublime gift, Emmanuel, God-with-us, living in us so we too can share as Jesus did. However, sharing presence is not easy in an environment that encourages us to be busy in order to have money to buy things and be successful. When we are busy, it is easy to miss being aware of those around us or those in need.
This Advent and Christmas, consider taking a step back and ask ourselves how we can do otherwise and follow Jesus' example. We might reflect on what can give us true happiness, joy and peace, and then seek out practical means of bringing these to ourselves and others.
We can deliberately choose to give our presence, that is, "being with" over "doing" in our daily lives. We can be "with" and share the fruits of the Spirit who lives in us. We need to consider being present to our loved ones instead of neglecting them because of our busyness.
We can give more time to our families and friends, a letter, a phone call or a visit for those further away from us. Simply a thought or a prayer can reach them as we focus our love and attention on them. And we must not forget our world and Church leaders who need the strength of God to be with them.
We can be physically present with the suffering, the imprisoned, the homeless, the abused, the neglected, the terminally ill, the hungry, the lonely. Let's reflect on each one of these needy groups and see with which God draws us to work.
We can take time for them, speak with them and listen to their stories. When we can't be physically present, we can be spiritually present by praying for them and by changing our focus to understanding their problems instead of condemning them.
As we see many examples today, our children can be helped to divert their attention from wanting the latest material things to sharing the richness of their lives with the needy. Each Advent/Christmas, they can share in choosing a person, a family, a charity to help.
They can get personally involved in doing something for others or being present to them in some way. Children can be taught to be kind to those who seem to be less desirable to their peers. Then, bullying would cease to be a problem.
It can be said that money is what we live on, but appreciation of beauty in God's creation, of nature and of human creations of music and art are what we live for.
What will remain after we die is what we have left to enrich others' lives and not what makes their lives richer monetarily. Open to the touch and presence of God, my life will become a messenger of hope and consolation in the lives of others.
This Advent/Christmas season, ask the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, to build us into temples fitting for God's continual presence so that we may slow down, recognize and share that presence with a hurting world.
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