The Gift of Christmas

This is truly a wonderful time of the year, a time when even the bitter cold cannot overcome the warmth of the season. There is a joy that somehow permeates the darkness and cold and fills our hearts and souls: 

The Christmas carols playing over and over again on the radio and everywhere you happen to be; the Christmas cards that come from near and far, from friends and relatives, letting you know that you are remembered and thought of during this joyous season; the smiles that creep onto your face as you watch the excitement of little ones when they see a Christmas tree or the holiday lights as you drive around. 

There is a sense of wonder and awe, of all things possible, and of hopefulness and love. A time of year when all the Christmas preparations are done, the home is decorated and we take a look around, and are gently reminded of all the blessings in our lives. 

As Advent draws to a close making way for the Christmas season, we are reminded of all the preparation and anticipation as we await the birth of Christ, of the coming of our Savior Emmanuel. The Advent wreath is now shining brightly as we light more of the candles, filling our homes with light, illuminating our lives, and promising us brighter days ahead. 

The Christmas tree stands proudly adorning our homes, with the promise of life evergreen, everlasting, and the crèche is set in a place of honor reminding us of the simplicity of Christ’s birth and how loved we are by the True Gift of Christmas, God’s promise to all mankind. 

With all this joy, Christmas can also be a trying time for us, a time of not only remembering the blessings, but recalling the losses and difficulties. Of wanting and wishing for the ability to slip into the past even if just briefly, hoping that all the hurt and pain will somehow disappear. 

But then our eyes fall on the scene in the manger, of the bareness of the surroundings, and we are jolted back into the reality of Jesus’ humble birth. We see the gentle look of love on Mary’s face as she gazes at the face of her Babe; the protective stanch of Joseph, as he takes in the beauty of the woman he loves, and the newborn Child, love taking hold of his heart. All this imagery beautifully captured and painted by an artist’s loving hand, telling us that we are not alone in our struggles and strife, that life is full of uncertainties, but yet through all the trials, there is hope. 

Christmas is love in its truest form. It is a time of putting others first, of bringing hope and joy into their lives, of putting our own pain and suffering aside to ease the pain of others. This is the message of Christmas, from that very first Christmas to today, we see and recall that God put all else aside to give us the ultimate, perfect Gift; a Gift that came with no fancy wrappings, but in the most humble of forms. 

A Gift  that was recognized by those of modest means, simple shepherds who received the message in their hearts, got up and followed it, leading them to the manager. The wise men, recognizing the significance of a brightly shining star, chose to follow it desiring only to gaze upon the King of Kings, opening the door for the rest of the world to believe. Even the lowly animals, that provided warmth in the stable for the newborn Babe, giving up their manager so that the Infant Jesus could have a bed to lie in. 

Let us not forget the sacrifice of Mary and Joseph. Mary, who willingly accepted the role of being the mother to God’s only Son, trusting that all would be cared for; and Joseph, who took on the responsibility of not only taking Mary as his wife, knowing she was expecting a Child, but the role of being a stepfather as well. Christmas and everything about it is a reminder of the selfless love of God for His people and His desire to give us all that we need. 

My prayer this Christmas season is that of homes being filled with love and joy, of new-found hope in the midst of trials, and a willingness to let go and let ourselves be led to the perfect Gift, like the shepherds and wise men so many years ago. May the Spirit of Christmas remain with us throughout the coming year, and may we always trust and believe that we are cared for, and that we are gift to one another. Let the joy that fills our hearts and souls serve as light in the darkness for everyone we encounter, and may we always remember the humble beginnings of Jesus and how His simple birth and life, changed the world. 

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with love, laughter and prosperity.

Anchor columnist Rose Mary Saraiva lives in Fall River and is a parishioner of St. Michael’s Parish, and she is the Events Coordinator and Bereavement Ministry for the diocesan Office of Faith Formation. She is married with three children and two grandchildren. rsaraiva@dfrcs.com.

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