Give the gift of love

| Father Michael Van Sloun for The Catholic Spirit | December 11, 2014 | 0 Comments

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As we shift into Christmas preparation mode, we start to think about what gifts we’ll give our family and friends. But where did the practice of giving gifts at Christmastime come from? What are the spiritual foundations to this long-standing Christmas tradition?

There are three explanations regarding the spiritual origins of gift-giving. The first and most important is Christ himself. God gave us his only begotten son, Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus is the gift of Christmas! As the father has given to us, so we should give to others.

The second tradition goes back to the three Magi, or Wise Men, who came from the east bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:1-12). As the Magi gave so generously to the child Jesus, so we should give generously to others.

The third tradition revolves around St. Nicholas (280-345 AD). Nicholas came from a wealthy family and received a large inheritance. When he was consecrated bishop of Myra, Turkey, he gave his money as alms to the poor. When a famine broke out, he obtained grain to give to the hungry. When he was put in prison, he gave faith, hope and encouragement to the other inmates. When an evil father refused to let his daughters get married for lack of a dowry, Nicholas gave the father the necessary amount so his daughters could move out and start a new life. St. Nicholas was eager to share, especially with the poor and needy, and so should we.

This Christmas, in addition to our regular gift-giving, we ought to consider giving gifts that cannot be bought, wrapped or placed under the tree.

God is love, so the best gifts are acts of love: a warm smile, a kind word, a telephone call, a Christmas card.

The Magi gave to a child. It is a great gift to pay special attention to children. Spend time listening to them, read to them, play games or bake cookies.

Give to those who are less fortunate. To give alms, contribute to the local food shelf; prepare, serve or deliver meals; or visit someone who is homebound or in a hospital or nursing home.

Father Van Sloun is pastor of St. Bartholomew in Wayzata.

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Category: Advent