I welcome members of our Saint Joseph and Nativity Parishes to this Christmas Mass. And I also welcome your guests and members of other parishes.
I also want to offer a special word of welcome to those here who might be looking for a church to belong to. We would love to have you in our parish families.
And there may be someone here today who hasn’t been to church in a while. I am glad that you came. And I am personally inviting you right now to come home to your parish family. Coming to Mass each week will have a profound effect on your life during the New Year ahead, I promise you. I welcome you here today.
Christmas is a season of gifts. And today I would like to focus on our “Christmas gift-getting” – rather than on our “Christmas gift-giving.”
When someone gives you a gift, it doesn’t necessarily say a lot about who you really are. But it does say a lot about who they think you are, or who they would like you to be.
Now, imagine someone giving you that “perfect gift” that they have selected. And they want you to open it in front of them. You do – and you are stunned! You look for something to say: “Isn’t this interesting?” “Oh, who would have ever thought?” “Where exactly did you find something like this?”
That is what you are saying. But what you are really thinking is more like: “What am I supposed to do with this?”
It is sometimes more difficult than we think to be the perfect gift-getter. And today, we celebrate the greatest gift that God could ever give us: His Son, born as a baby in Bethlehem. “Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.” God is the perfect gift-giver. And God waits to see how we will be as gift-getters.
We exchange gifts with one another at Christmas. And this involves a three-part process: the gift given, the gift received, and the gift accepted.
Someone who cares about us chooses a gift carefully and gives it to us.
We receive the gift and open it to see what it is.
The gift given and the gift received are fundamentals in the gift-giving process. But the third part – the gift accepted – is sometimes missing. How many Christmas sweaters are never worn? How many bottles of cologne are never opened? How many games are never played?
The stores were crowded through Christmas Eve with shoppers looking for gifts to give to loved ones.
The stores will also be crowded during the days after Christmas with loved ones returning Christmas gifts they received – but did not accept.
Look at the mounds of returned items in the stores after Christmas, which are no longer being handled carefully by the customers or by the sales personnel. They are clear evidence of gifts given and received – but not accepted.
God gives us the gift of His Son, Jesus. We receive God’s gift. But will we accept God’s gift? Or will we return God’s gift right after Christmas – thinking perhaps that what Jesus has to offer does not fit the way that I want to live my life, or that Jesus is Someone that I don’t really need?
“Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.” God gives the gift of His Son to us. And today God hopes that each of us will receive and accept His gift.
We have a gift to give you, as you leave church today: a copy of Matthew Kelly’s new book, Rediscover the Saints. It is easy to read with 4 or 5 pages about each of 25 holy people, each chapter beginning with a life-changing question and concluding with a prayer – and the book is only 124 pages!
This book does not just give a summary of each saint’s life. Plenty of great books already do that. This book brings the saints to life and puts them front and center in our lives. Why? Because the saints remind us that, with the gift of God’s grace, holiness is possible and that we have great friends in heaven who are always cheering us on!
An anonymous Saint Joseph parishioner has given this gift to you, our Saint Joseph and Nativity Parish Families and our guests.
Please receive and please accept this gift. It will help you know Jesus and His friends, the saints, even better during this New Year.
May the Christ Child bless you richly and warmly in your gift-getting – as well as in your gift-giving. Merry Christmas, everyone!