“Be joyful as you prepare for Christmas.”
This was the advice Pope Francis delivered during his homily at St. Joseph Church in Rome on Gaudete Sunday, Dec. 14.
So what is Christmas joy? If we are to believe the endless stream of television commercials, it begins with a brand new car wrapped in a bright red bow and ribbon. Not so, says Pope Francis.
“The consumerism that leads to everyone being anxious Dec. 24 because, ‘Oh, I don’t have this, I need that’ — no, that is not God’s joy,” he told Mass-goers in Rome, reported Catholic News Service.
Christian joy, according to Pope Francis, “comes from prayer and from giving thanks to God.”
As we approach the celebration of Christ’s birth, let us remember the three wise men, kings who came bearing gifts from afar. In one sense, they were the first gift-givers at Christmas. They serve as models of the generosity found in the human heart. Their example of sharing the wealth with a poor, homeless family offers guidance to us.
Like the Magi, we have three gifts to offer — if only we look deep within ourselves to find them. Our gifts are more valuable than gold, because they come from within, inspired by the Word made flesh.
The gifts we can share today cost nothing, but are priceless: respect, kindness and time.
- Respect: Showing respect to others is a gift to ourselves and to everyone we meet. It’s a skill all people, from the very young to the very old, can practice. Sometimes viewed as a lost art, respect — for elders, for property, for the opposite sex — defines a civilized culture. Unfortunately, popular culture often promotes the opposite: disrespect through crass behavior, language and actions. Teachers will tell you that respect is a foundation for learning. We need to retrieve this virtue and pass it on to our children.
- Kindness: It’s the easiest gift to give, simply greeting people on the street, looking into their eyes, sharing a smile and saying hello. Practice a random act of kindness as you go about your holiday schedule by holding the door open for someone, giving up a parking spot at the mall, or being polite to the next telemarketer.
- Finally, the gift of time. Volunteers know the value of giving time to others. Caregivers, especially, know how shut-ins and nursing home residents appreciate visits from people. Even within our own families, spending an afternoon with a grandparent, an elderly aunt or uncle or a neighbor can lift the human spirit. Beginning this Christmas, make time for others.
There are other virtues we can share, but offering our respect, treating others with kindness and giving time are good places to start. They can be our modern version of the three gifts presented by the Magi to our Lord at Bethlehem. They can also bring us the Christmas joy described by Pope Francis. Find an opportunity to share these gifts and know that by doing so you will keep Christ in Christmas.