One of the Christmas presents that I remember the most was when I was younger. I don’t remember how old I was, but when I woke up Christmas morning, I saw there was a bike in the living room, and it had my name on it. It wasn’t wrapped because it would be to difficult to wrap a bicycle. I guess Santa brought it through the front door or something to get it in. I remember it because it was something I used a lot as a kid. I must admit it has been years since I’ve ridden a bike, but it was important before I began driving. Some of my friends lived in the same neighborhood as me, and it was easy for me to ride my bike to their house. It was one of those gifts that I remember for a long time receiving, and it got a lot of use out of it.
However, I would suggest that there is a gift this Christmas that we have all received. This is a gift that we will receive over and over again. It is more important and greater than any gift that we can receive from anyone. That is God’s gift to us, especially in his only begotten Jesus Christ. We may not think of Jesus is a gift to us, but I believe this is the best way for us to think about the Christmas season.
The Gospel explains it to us well; if you were at Mass this past Sunday, you heard the last portion of it as a part of this Mass. It tells of how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. The prophets foretold it, and his birth came about. St. Matthew reminded us of this fact when he quoted the prophet Isaiah and said: “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.” Jesus is Emmanuel, and he has come to save us from our sins. That is the great gift of Christmas we are given today. All of us have sinned and have turned our backs on God, but his promise to us is that he didn’t want to leave us abandoned or separated from him. So he gave us a great gift, and that is his son born of Mary and wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
The mystery we celebrate today for Christmas is that God came down from heaven and was born of the Virgin Mary. He did this because he, too, would die on the cross and save us from our sins and restore us to eternal life. The great mystery of Christmas is of the incarnation or to put it another way that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
But there are other gifts that God can and does give us regularly. One of those gifts is the gift of his body in the Eucharist. If you remember the story, Jesus, before he was to give his life, gave us his body and blood at the last supper. We as a Church through the hands of the priest celebrate that last supper, and through a mystery, the bread and wine you see up here on the altar become the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We don’t receive this gift only at Christmas or even every Sunday. We have the opportunity to receive this gift daily. The Eucharist is food for our pilgrimage on earth, and it sustains us in our faith, it helps us to grow in holiness, and it helps us be united to Christ both now and in the life to come. Soon we will receive this sacrament and receive a great gift from the Lord.
We are given another gift that we, too, can receive more than just once a year at Christmas. That is the gift of God’s mercy and forgiveness to us in confession. The beauty of this sacrament is that unlike Christmas, where if we are bad, we might get coal from Santa. God will never deny us this gift if we go to him with repentant hearts and confess our sins to a priest. What else is beautiful about this sacrament is even though you are confessing to a priest, Jesus himself is present in the priest, and he is the one hearing your confession.
God has given us many other gifts that we may not realize too. The scriptures, the healing that he brings in our lives, and so many other things. So, I hope that whatever gifts you get this Christmas, no matter how many, no matter how small or expensive they may be. May we never forget that the greatest gift we have received is Jesus Christ, who became man, died on the cross for us so that we may have eternal life.