Dear St. Luke’s Parishioners,
Christmas Eve! Christmas Day! So many young people and lots of not so young people have waited for soooo long for these days! And now they have come.
Certainly, the day of excitement for young children comes with opening presents and the wonder of the unknown - what might be in there? With somewhat older children, the wonder is if I really will receive what I asked for. With adults, the surprise of a gift that is “just right” may be at hand.
For most of us, the great joy of finding and giving a gift that really seems right is also a big part of these days.
But why are we giving and receiving gifts in the first place? It all has to do with the conclusion of the four weeks of Advent. We have been waiting for the coming of Jesus. Perhaps we have been lighting the candles of the Advent Wreath at home, finding a prayer to say with the family as we do. Week by week the anticipation builds.
We have been preparing for the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. This preparation is what goes inside our heart. Perhaps it was a time of prayer - reading the reflections from the Little Blue Books or some other Advent daily reflection. Perhaps it as a time of an additional daily prayer. Perhaps it was a time to celebrate the sacrament of Penance, to have our sins forgiven.
This waiting and preparing for the coming of Jesus helps us recognize how much God loves each one of us and all of us as his adopted children, by sending his Son to be born among us. When we reflect on how good God is to us, seeing that everything we have is his gift to us including his Son Jesus, then we want to respond to his great love.
As human beings, it is hard to do something directly for God that loves him in return. We can love other human beings made in God’s image and likeness. We can reach out in compassionate care for others like Jesus did. We can give of ourselves to someone else.
That gets us to why we give and receive gifts on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We do so as a sign of love for someone special to us. Jesus is present within each of us. Giving can be our expression of love for the persons God has put into our lives. In loving them, we are loving God their Father.
May your gift giving and receiving be when you are touched by love - your love for each other and God’s love in sending Jesus his Son to be born among us. May you be especially aware of those who are in need among us and try to find ways to help them. May you be aware of those alone or lonely and take a few moments of your time for them. May you celebrate with your loved ones and as you do remember those who are not with us but are now with our God. There they know what God’s love is really about!
If you are traveling, do so in safety. Keep me in prayer as my family gathers in Tubac, Arizona for a few days. The season of Christmas lasts until January 9th when we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus. We can keep celebrating for a good while!
Merry Christmas to you all!
Fr. Larry Hoffmann