Christmas is a time for gift giving and a great time to reflect upon two gifts that we receive at Christmas. First, we receive the gift of belonging more deeply to the family of God, and second, we have the opportunity to allow God to uncover our inherent dignity so we can more fully become the persons God intends us to be.
The first gift stems from the fact that, like any parent, God our Father never stops reaching out to us. I hope that during this Advent and Christmas, you take the opportunity to respond to that call to come closer to Christ and his Church, a call that
emerges from God’s grace alive in your hearts.
At this time of year, we remember how that grace was made visible 2000 years ago when Christ was born at the first Christmas and how, through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus Christ saved us from sin and taught us to love the way God loves and think the way God thinks.
One of my favorite writers, C.S. Lewis, provides a great image of what it meant for Christ to become a man by describing the way a parent teaches a child to write. As the child moves the pencil, the parent’s hand covers the child’s hand so that the words the child writes are formed by the parent guiding and leading. In a similar way, Christ came to earth to teach us by his example and by his power what it means to love as God loves, and it is in Christ’s family, the Church, that Christ draws us close to Him and to each other.
We discover the second gift — our inherent dignity — as we draw near to Jesus Christ in his Church. When I was growing up, I knew a great basketball coach named Coach Kelly. At his retirement dinner, one of his former players spoke about the players’ love for Coach Kelly. He said, “Coach, we love you because you accepted us for who we are, imperfect.” Coach Kelly’s player added: “But you always saw what we could become.”
When Christ looks upon us, he sees our imperfections, but he also sees what we can become. There are two sacred actions in which Christ accepts our weakness while also helping us to become the person that God destines us to be. The first is the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is an excellent spiritual practice for the Advent and Christmas season. The second is the Holy Eucharist, in which we receive the body of Christ at Mass. Going to Mass on Christmas and every Sunday puts us in touch with the Lord Jesus.
Another wonderful image to help us reflect on God’s gifts comes from St. Hilary of Poitiers of France, who lived during the late third and early fourth centuries. St. Hilary described Advent and Christmas as a time for the Christian to set sail: “Let Advent and Christmas free your hearts of anything that prevents you from aiming to the highest point and set sail.” The highest point consists in gladness and joy, hope in Jesus Christ, desiring God, and eternal treasures. God wants to place all of these virtues in our lives.
As I invite you to belong more deeply to Christ and his Church and to embrace a dignity that God has prepared for you, consider coming home for Christmas. Take the time to deepen the gift of faith God gave you. Let Jesus Christ be born again into your heart.
I wish you and your loved ones a blessed and faith-filled Christmas and New Year.