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“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son….”
Christmas: a time of decorated trees and fireplace mantels. A time filled with commitments and hectic schedules as we make mad dashes to the store for last-minute presents.
Our “have to” lists are long and sometimes burdensome. But the love list attached to each of those gifts we select and purchase are filled with joy and anticipation; we can’t wait to see the pleasure our gift will bring to someone we love.
Both lists are necessary. One fulfills a sense of duty and propriety. The other fills our heart with joy.
It is in those rare moments when gifts are handed out and we see the anticipation or exclamation of surprise as loved ones open their presents that we begin to experience the gift of Christmas.
Christmas is about love.
It is not about Christmas trees or lights or candles or presents under the tree, although these are important. It’s about remembrance and celebration.
It is about God and the gift of love He gave us when He sent His only son to be born in a barn – a love freely given with the hope that as we accept, our lives will forever be changed and transformed. And for a few moments we grasp the meaning of love.
St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians centuries ago, articulated that transforming love. The words and their message are ageless.
“Love is patient and kind. It is not jealous or boastful, arrogant, or rude. It doesn’t insist on its our own way and is not irritable or resentful and does not take pleasure in things that are wrong. Love hopes all things and endures all things.”
The gift of love wrapped within the swaddling clothes of a tiny infant who would grow up and sacrifice his life so we can have hope and salvation is the ultimate love. It is experienced at Christmas only for a brief moment.
If we take God’s love and gift out of the season of Christmas, we are left with shallow rituals that give us a spike in pleasure before dumping us back into the dull routines of life. Like any gift, if it is left forgotten and unwrapped under the tree, we will not experience the joy, anticipation and love attached to it throughout the coming year.
May you experience the joy of that great love this Christmas.