HOMILY — DECEMBER 25
Got all your Christmas shopping done? I kind of gave up on it long ago. I just can’t keep up with what’s currently the rage with the young folks in the family. The way it goes these days, anything that was in demand when you wrapped the gift is sure to be obsolete by the time the gift is unwrapped. Oh, and then, people ask ME, “Father, what could you use?” And my standard response is, “Go look in my office, it’s already in there somewhere!” I used to give my family members gift certificates, but several of the stores and restaurants had gone out of business by the time we opened the cards on Christmas day. WURZBURG’S is CLOSED?? Lanning’s is gone? Who knew?
Now, you might be ready to tell me, look, Father, knock it off. Christmas is not just about gift-giving. You should be preaching about the true meaning of Christmas. Okay, you’re right. I’ll let you in on the true meaning of Christmas. It’s all . . . about . . . GIFT-GIVING! Hey, don’t blame me! God started it!
Granted, all the furied and frenzied shopping and other activities of the Advent and Christmas season sometimes get our minds off just what we’re doing. But we are imitating the activity of God himself. He gave the world the most unexpected, amazing, undeserved gift of all: his own Son, on his own initiative, without anyone thinking that God would actually go that far for a remarkably ungrateful human race. Not only were we the cause of our own wretchedness, but we spurned God’s advances of love by — well, we don’t have to go into the whole rest of the story just now. It IS Christmas, after all. It’s time to celebrate the Gift. There will be plenty of time during the remaining 48 weeks of the Church year to ponder what we did when that Gift was in our midst, and how God continues to pursue us with his love, never letting our sin be the last word unless we are completely unrepentant.
So don’t be shy about all the activity of gift-giving. We do it in imitation of God. Think of that when you are giving gifts, or writing thank-you notes, or sending belated cards, and PRAY FOR the people whom you are blessing with your kindness, and who have blessed you with theirs. That will be the greatest kindness, the greatest blessing of all. And take note of some of the letters we’ve received as a parish. They’re up on the bulletin boards. We strive to be generous as a parish with the funds you provide us in our Christian Service collections. We used to have poor boxes at the church exits, but those didn’t get used very well. Now we pool the money collected through the Clothing Center, the money sent to us for charity by friends around the community, and the funds provided by our parishioners in the second collection on the first weekend of each month. Through these and other sources, we are able to send substantial gifts each year to Catholic Charities, to Mel Trotter, to the Oasis of Hope, to Habitat for Humanity, to Pine Rest, and to many other agencies who do the hands-on work for us in many diverse corners of our local community.
This is not bragging. We are able to be generous with God’s people because of the great generosity you exercise through your parish. And we do it with practically no overhead. The government could (and probably SHOULD) take lessons from the Church about how to administer funds for people’s needs. We’ve never spent $400 for a hammer! And after you check out the letters on the bulletin boards, you can tell any naysayers among your relatives or friends or co-workers, who might complain about the Church being rich and picking people’s pockets, that we don’t do it to aggrandize ourselves. We do it to serve and witness to Christ our Savior in the poor, the homeless, the afflicted, and all those with whom the Son of God shares a human nature — he who became poor and homeless and afflicted for US, so we could live forever in his eternal Kingdom. What a Savior! What a Gift! Let’s keep on giving. Pay it, no, pay HIM forward. A blessed Christmas to you!