Taken from St. Gregory's Abbey Letter - Christmas (see here.)
One of the things that can make Christmas a lot of extra work is the presents.
We have to figure out who is on our list to receive gifts this year, what they really
want, what is suitable for our relationship with each person, and then, what we
can actually manage to give. After a while this becomes such a project, it’s easy to
forget the connection between the fancy wrapped boxes or the Internet orders,
and Baby Jesus.
So we probably should sit down in front of the manger scene, and remind
ourselves of that connection. Look at the figures of the Wise Men, each bringing
his present for the Christ child. Then say to your Lord, “This is to celebrate your
birth as one of us, your coming to save us. Whether it’s fun, or tedious, or
daunting, it’s to celebrate you.” Say it to him, but hear it as a reminder to yourself.
And remember that along with presents to our kith and kin, we ought to offer
our gifts to the child himself. In the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew’s gospel,
Jesus tells us that what we give to those in need, we give to him. So those
sometimes annoying letters we receive from various charities at this time of year
are really opportunities to give our present to the Baby Jesus the way the Magi did.
One reason we hear from so many needy folks is that there are so many folks in
need. There are national and international organizations trying to aid the needy,
and local ones as well. There are probably services near you for feeding the hungry,
sheltering abused women and children, or otherwise aiding neighbors in need,
folks in your own town or county. These organizations are there to use our gifts
for the needy, just as Mary and Joseph used the wise men’s gifts to serve their son.
Maybe you’re tapped out for the season, and don’t have money or volunteer time
to spare. That can happen. But still it’s good to make a token gift now, in
anticipation of a more generous one when you’re able later on. If you’ve already
given your Christmas contributions, say to the Bambino, “I hope you like the
present I sent you.” If you haven’t gotten to it yet, say, “Keep your eyes open, I’ve
got something coming for you.”
Before you get up and walk away from the crèche, take a few minutes to recall
the first time you gave a Christmas present all on your own, without adult
assistance. Maybe it was something you bought with your own money, maybe
something you made. I remember mine: they were ballpoint pens from a coinoperated
dispenser in my elementary school. I bought them for my parents. It was
an exciting, grown-up thing to do, a very special moment for me. That was a little
boy’s excitement, but even in our adulthood, giving can be fun, an adventure. It’s
a blessing for us to remember that, and it’s important to pass that lesson to the
St. Paul reminds the Corinthians that “the Lord loves a cheerful giver.” Too
often that sounds like a warning not to be surly, resentful givers. Instead we can
hear it as an invitation to experience giving as a delight, as part of what makes a
holiday a holiday, and what makes us Christians Christian, us humans human.
— Fr. William