Over the last several days I have heard media types as well as many others say, "That's what the season is all about," when referring to giving that goes on at this time of the year. And they are right. At least partly.
Christmas is the season of giving and unfortunately it seems it is the only time that most people are in the giving mood at the same time. There is a certain excitement to this time of the calendar when everyone scurries about buying gifts for friends and loved ones and seeking just the right decoration to add the perfect touch to the home. More often at this time of the year, friends and family get together just because. There is really no reason except to enjoy one another's company. While we do tend to do that in the summer months as well, there is a warmth to gatherings at this season that seems to be missing in the middle of the year. Yet, this really isn't what the season is all about.
We witness various social and religious organizations kick into high gear gathering in gifts for those in society who have little or nothing. Children's smiles light up the television screen as Santa doles out those presents at community gatherings. It truly touches the heart deeply to see these young members of society be, for one moment, the center of attention for something good. All of this is done in the spirit of the Magi whether it is acknowledged or not. The Magi, the Three Wisemen, those first gift givers to the Christ child those centuries ago when Jesus first appeared on earth as a man. Even though these things are tremendously good, they still are really not what the season is all about.
At this time of the year, we often look back over the last twelve months to see where we have been and, perhaps, look forward to where we might be going in the upcoming year. It is good to be retrospective about one's own life. We do need to understand what we have done and what our lives have meant up to this point so that we may better focus on how to make our lives even more meaningful to our family, friends, and community. Introspection is good and can produce mighty results. And, yet, this is not what the season is all about.
What Christmas is about is all these things and so much more. The television anchors and others do have it right when they say that the season is all about giving. However, it isn't, nor should it be, centered around people giving to other people. That is just a reflection of the true giving that has fostered all these good works. We gather with family and friends in the spirit of love, togetherness, and caring, again a reflection of the real meaning of Christmas. And, yes, taking care of those who are less fortunate in our communities is also a mere reflection of the real gift of the season.
You see, the real gift of the season is a gift that cannot be measured in human terms. It cannot have a value of any sort placed upon it. It is without price. And, yet, it is priceless! For the true gift giver of Christmas, the first one to give of self completely and without reservation is God Himself. And that gift is, of course, His Son, our Lord and Savior.
This is the Gift that matters. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (Jn 3:16)
God becomes man in the person of Jesus Christ. Without this most loving act, everything else we do during this season would have no meaning at all. Everything would be an empty gesture, void of any substance whatsoever. Whether we acknowledge it or not, when we gather together as a family with friends, we gather in honor of the love that God has shown us by giving to us His Son. When we provide for those who have next to nothing, we do so not because it feels good, but because we are imitating the Creator of the Universe, God Himself. Every 'Merry Christmas' we exchange with someone else is in imitation of the Son of God imparting His peace upon us.
So, as we draw very close to the day of Incarnation, Christmas, take a few moments to pause and reflect how you and your family have lived out the true meaning of Christmas. That true meaning is, undoubtedly, love. The love God has for us and the love we show Him through our actions at this holy season of Christmas as well as throughout the rest of the year.
May God give you His peace now and throughout the year. And may you remember in the back of your mind as you go about celebrating this remarkable fact that all is in imitation of the Father who loved us beyond description so much so that He became one of us!