Typically, when we celebrate something at Church, an explanation is needed to help understand what we are celebrating. Christmas, however, is one of those celebrations that needs little explanation. The majority know but do not necessarily understand what they are celebrating: we celebrate the birth of Jesus. My prayer for those who read this reflection is that Jesus will touch your heart in (a) special way this Christmas season.
Christmas is a season filled with many different traditions and activities and probably one of the most unique and popular is gifts, both giving and receiving. During this time of year, we give gifts to people who are poor, lonely, and those who could use some support that says you matter. We give gifts to people we encounter every day, like co-workers, teachers, and those who deliver the mail and newspaper. As well, we take time to give gifts to family members and those people we love and care for the most. And each time we give a gift we communicate to that person, “You are important to me and I care for you.” Some will also make the case that when we give a gift that we give that person a part of ourselves. Ultimately, we can draw the conclusion that gift giving is an important aspect of the Christmas season. Some may even say that gift giving is the most important thing.
But I would argue that equal to giving a gift is receiving the gift. For us to give a gift, someone must receive it. It is impossible to give a gift unless there is a receiver. There is something special about receiving a gift. It feels good to know that someone cares about us and that we are important enough to receive this gift from the giver. But there is also something humbling about receiving a gift. It may be a gift that we could have gone out to get for ourselves, but we allow the giver of the gift to give it to us instead. And at other times, we receive a gift that we have no way of affording or there is no way that we would have gotten that gift for ourselves. Sometimes we can struggle with receiving a gift for a variety of reasons: it might be that we are not worthy to receive the gift or perhaps we have no way of returning the gift, or perhaps because the giver is taking a great risk in giving the gift to us. Some may even see receiving a gift as sign of weakness. I grew up being taught the importance of being independent, the importance of providing and doing things for myself. When we receive a gift, we allow someone to do something for us, and there is something humbling about receiving the gift.
Christmas is about the gift of Jesus Christ. This gift is given to us by our God. It is a gift that is given to us out of love and care. It is a gift that is given to us by our God because we are important. Christmas is also about each one us of receiving the gift of Jesus Christ. And to receive this is something many of us can struggle with: we are not worthy of this gift, we have no way of giving a gift in return of equal value and we know the risk God is taking in giving us this gift. As much as we may struggle with receiving this gift, we also know that we need this gift. A gift that promises us great peace, joy and life. A gift that we have no way of providing for ourselves and so our God invites us to receive this gift.
Fr. Matt Keller, C.PP.S., ordained in June 2018, is the parochial vicar of the Dayton Region Seven parishes, which includes Emmanuel, Holy Trinity and St. Joseph.