When we ask children what they look forward to most during Christmas you will hear a very excited and uniform answer: “gifts”. The practice of offering gifts at Christmas time has become so widespread that it may overshadow the story of Christ’s birth. But perhaps it may be helpful to look at it in a different way, that gift giving is not a departure from the true theme of Christmas but, rather, its most natural consequence.
The “what” of Christmas. The story of Christ’s birth is well known to us and well loved. Today I would like to focus not so much on the “what” of Christmas but on the “why” of Christmas. We know the what! After all, we have heard the details of this wonderful event since we were children. The angel announces the coming of the long awaited Messiah, Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem where the prophets foretold the Messiah would be born, and after encountering difficulties and rejection, Jesus is born in a stable as the poorest of the poor.
The “why” of Christmas. But “why”? Why is God born as a human being? What is at the heart of this amazing event? The answer is “we are”. Over and over again we are reminded that God is born “for us”, the son is given “to us”, “he it is who gave himself for us”. And that is the true origin of offering gifts at Christmas, the origin of God offering us the first gift, the gift of Himself.
Let’s just think about this for a moment, God offers himself to us, to you, to me. He wants to be with us, He wants us, and He desires us. God’s greatest desire is to be with us. And even though there is a cost of being with us, the cost of entering into our way of life: pain and suffering, poverty, struggle, and even death, God wants to be with us so much that he is willing to accept all the difficulties that come with it.
My dear friends, Christmas offered us the greatest gift of all, the gift of God’s love and an invitation to be with Him. Christmas reminds us that we are loved by God, loved with such intense passion the likes of which have never been seen before. If we respond to this love, if we choose to be with Him, to love Him, to follow Him, we will experience the greatest gift of all, the gift of joy, peace, and true freedom. Merry Christmas my dear friends. I love you all!
Fr. Wojtek Kuzma