The seasons of Advent and Christmas were established to celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.
It is a time when we remember the greatest gift given to the human race. This gift bridged the gap between heaven and earth, and the world has never been the same since that baby boy was born in a stable and laid in a manger.
It seems to be much harder these days to appreciate that gift from heaven. There is one Christmas I will never forget, because it was the year my family experienced these joys as never before.
It was the first of my three years of seminary. My wife, Kim, and our three young kids, ages 11, 8 and 7, left Texas and followed me across four states to our new home. We lived on faith, prayer, and the generosity of a few good friends.
During those three years money was always scarce, which made buying gifts at Christmas a real hardship. This hardship was compounded on Christmas Day that first year when we gathered with other family members at the house of Kim’s mother who lived a few hundred miles away.
Our kids after joyfully opening their two modest gifts, watched as their four cousins open present after present. Even though our kids never asked for another gift and celebrated joyfully with each new present their cousins opened, it was painfully hard for Kim and me to watch.
We became so distracted by the disparity of gifts between our children and their cousins, a heavy sadness blanketed the morning for Kim and me.
The next day as we were making the five-hour drive back to seminary, everyone was sitting quietly in the car remembering our visit with family.
Out of the silence, our 7-year-old innocently asked, “Daddy, why do some people get more gifts from Santa than others?”
It was a dagger to my heart. With tears rolling down our cheeks, Kim and I began to remind them of the real joys of Christmas.
We talked about the fun and laughter we had with their cousins. We gave thanks for our friends who loved and supported us. We talked about what it must have been like for Mary, Joseph and Jesus living in a stable.
We wondered why God chose to come among us in such a lowly state, and how this baby changed everything. Kim and I told our kids how proud we were of them for understanding real joy does not come from gifts wrapped in paper.
Before long, we were all laughing and singing our way down the Interstate, leaving our sadness along the side of the road.
When we arrived at home, there was a note on our back door which asked us to come to the seminary. When we arrived at the school office, we were greeted with six jumbo boxes filled with clothes, toys and overwhelming love from friends we didn’t even know.
A priest, hundreds of miles away, told his congregation about a family of five attending seminary who needed some Christmas love. The six jumbo boxes couldn’t contain it all. It was a Christmas my family and I will never forget. We were reminded in the midst of scarcity, how rich we really were.
No matter what circumstances you find yourself this Christmas season, there are gifts of joy and peace waiting for you. Gifts sent by the author of life. Gifts from the One who will always love you.
Have a blessed Christmas and a joyous New Year.