The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Busyness & Birthday Gifts for Jesus

I suppose we can all agree that the Christmas Season is certainly a busy time of the year; indeed, sometimes a bit too busy. So much of our busyness stems from activities and concerns that actually have little to do with the reality of Christmas. It seems instead to be driven by what Christmas has become. Our secular society has pretty well succeeded in its transformation of the Christmas holy day into the winter holiday. Perhaps the best measure of its success is the fact that just speaking the word "Christmas" in the public square is now the height, or rather the depth, of political incorrectness.

Of course, from a secular perspective, it makes perfect sense. The secular world generally measures the value of any nation by its economic health, and things haven't been looking too good lately. And so all of that holiday spending will do nothing but help a sluggish economy. Our secular society knows that if people focus too much on the religious aspects of Christmas, if they try to return the season to its original holiness, they just might question why they're spending all this money on so many frivolous things. And we certainly can't have that!

That very thought crossed my mind as Diane and I opened our few presents on Christmas Eve after the vigil Mass. I even took it a step farther and wondered when this tradition of giving Christmas gifts to each other actually began. Does anyone know? When you think about it, it's really a rather odd tradition. After all, I don't give my brother a birthday gift on my wife's birthday, so why do we give each other gifts on Jesus' birthday? How many of us even consider giving Jesus a gift?

Apparently, if my experience this Christmas is any indication, quite a few people did exactly that. For example, one of our daughters did. She and her husband gave us a goat! OK, we didn't actually get the goat, for which I am exceedingly grateful. No, they bought a goat in our name and the animal will be given to a poor family in Latin America. What a wonderful gift! But it's less a gift for Diane and me, and more a gift for Jesus. One need only read Matthew 25 to come to that conclusion.

But that's not all. Diane is the Thursday cook at our Wildwood Soup Kitchen, and so this year, with Christmas falling on a Thursday, she and I were up before dawn to get things going at the kitchen. Diane gave most of our regular Thursday crew the day off because so many others had asked if they could help. We ended up with about 25 people volunteering to assist during the six hours it took to prepare and serve the Christmas meal. And so, here are 25 more people who gave Jesus a wonderful birthday gift, the gift of their time and service.

And there are more. Art and Karen (I won't give their last name since they're the kind of people who prefer to stay well under the radar) took Diane to Sam's Club and let her spend over $900 for food to be used during the Christmas Season. In Art's words, "It's not from me. It's from Jesus." I know exactly what he meant by that, but it was also a gift to Jesus.

On Christmas Day some fellow volunteers, Ed and Rosemary, gave us $200 to buy some last-minute additions to the Christmas menu. And yesterday a retired priest friend, Father Bill, handed me a check for $1,000 to add to the soup kitchen kitty. A few days earlier a local company sent me an email through the soup kitchen's website and asked me to come by and pick up a check for $2,000. One of our drivers and his wife (in addition to the meals served in-house, the soup kitchen delivers over 100 meals daily) gave us a Christmas check for $500...and the list goes on and on.

Quite simply, all of these people gave birthday gifts to Jesus. They saw Jesus in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger...and some gave relatively large gifts, but many gave the modern equivalent of the widow's mite. Many of our guests, for example, folks who live in real poverty, quietly put a donation in the small wooden donation box at the soup kitchen. And in most instances, I know they gave from their need not from their surplus.

And so perhaps we need to realign our priorities at this time of year and do a little Christmas shopping for Jesus. I have no idea how much the average family spends on Christmas gifts, but if we all cut that spending in half and gave the saved half to Jesus as a birthday gift, I expect we'd end up doing an awful lot of good in the world.

And don't forget to praise God today and thank Him for giving you life!

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to offer this story on my application that brings the prayer on iPhone.
    I believe that prayer is Christian and Catholic from spreading. You wonder why you can publish the news and if you can spread it to your friends on the blog.


    fr. Paolo Padrini

    Sacred texts: Vatican embraces iTunes prayer book
    5 days ago
    VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican is endorsing new technology that brings the book of daily prayers used by priests straight onto iPhones.
    The Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communications is embracing the iBreviary, an iTunes application created by a technologically savvy Italian priest, the Rev. Paolo Padrini, and an Italian Web designer.
    The application includes the Breviary prayer book — in Italian, English, Spanish, French and Latin and, in the near future, Portuguese and German. Another section includes the prayers of the daily Mass, and a third contains various other prayers.
    After a free trial period in which the iBreviary was downloaded approximately 10,000 times in Italy, an official version was released earlier this month, Padrini said.
    The application costs euro0.79 ($1.10), while upgrades will be free. Padrini's proceeds are going to charity.
    Monsignor Paul Tighe, secretary of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communications, praised the new application Monday, saying the Church "is learning to use the new technologies primarily as a tool or as a mean of evangelizing, as a way of being able to share its own message with the world."
    Pope Benedict XVI, a classical music lover who was reportedly given an iPod in 2006, has sought to reach out to young people through new media. During last summer's World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia, he sent out mobile phone text messages citing scripture to thousands of registered pilgrims — signed with the tagline "BXVI."