Posted by: mmreflections | December 15, 2010

No Gifts To Bring! December 2010

“While they were there (Bethlehem) the time came for her to have her child and she gave birth to her firstborn son and she wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:6-7)

Even though we know there is no turning back, many of us will be unable to escape the nostalgia this holy season of the year brings to us.  There are so many memories of Christmas past, joyful and sorrowful, flooding our thoughts as the carols are heard and the lights of the season shine brightly all around us.  We rejoice in beholding the delight of little children and big children as they gaze in wonder at all the aspects of this winter holy season celebrating the hope offered to us by Jesus coming into this world and the giving and receiving of gifts.  Many of us will also feel the twinge of sadness as we recall the many times we joyfully celebrated Christmas with loved ones who are no longer with us.

As a priest of over 47 years my thoughts are flooded at this time of the year with the various parish liturgical celebrations of the birth of Jesus.  Some of those moments stand out over others.  One Christmas celebration that more often comes to mind  happened almost 30 years ago at St. Joseph parish in the small but lovely town of Toronto, Ohio along the Ohio River.  It was Christmas Eve and at that time we had a midnight liturgy which was actually celebrated at midnight.  At the stroke of midnight, the lights in the church dimmed as the choir of cantors began to sing the lovely carols.  The little children entered the church delighting the adults and their parents with their portrayal of that first Christmas.  The strains of “Silent Night” sung by the choir created a stillness in the church as Joseph and Mary slowly approached the manger, then the shepherds and angels came and surrounded them as the choir sang the accompanying carols, followed by the kings.  When the children’s drama seemed to be over, the church became very still and quiet as I, with all the adult parishioners, gazed upon this beautiful scene, this gift the children of the parish had given us.  Suddenly in the midst of this still scene, the sound of a little drum broke the silence and a little boy, named Doug, entered walking down the aisle of the church in tattered and patched clothes while the choir softly sang, “I have no gifts to bring to offer my king……”  He approached the manger scene where the infant child lay, and played on his little drum.  Tears rolled down my cheeks as I beheld the unfolding scene. For some reason I have never been able to forget that Christmas.

What happened that night?  What have I learned over the years from this Christmas scene that still comes to mind?  Perhaps it is at this time of the year that I am reminded of my own poverty.  Not the poverty of my childhood during the depression years but the poverty of these present years in the midst of abundance.  There is a poverty amongst us that is much deeper and more profound than material poverty.  Recently a brother priest and I were discussing the challenge confronting us regarding all the appeals for money from the poor on the streets to all the various organizations sending appeals through the mail with letters written to creat feelings of guilt if we don’t help them.  If we send a gift to one organization our address is immediately sold to other groups who quickly send other appeals.  In one month I had received about four appeals from the same organization announcing they needed more and more.  It became impossible to oblige every group.  Jesus said of the woman who anointed him before his death, “The poor you will always have with you; but you will not always have me.” (Matthew 26:11)  As our discussion unfolded and we wondered about the solution, my priest friend suggested that this was a sign of our own poverty.  We cannot help everyone.  We cannot solve the problems of the poor by ourselves.

This discussion prompted a further reflection of my own regarding the poverty that embraces all of us.  There is poverty more profound than meets the eye.  Many of our brothers and sisters are hungry for a kind word, a loving embrace, some understanding in the midst of their crises, a listening ear in addition to a helping hand.  There are many brothers and sisters who are alone.  They may sleep in a warm and comfortable bed in a lovely mansion with all the luxuries imaginable but long for someone special to be there with them and there is no one.  Some may have all the above and they may have someone there with them but there is a deep loneliness because that someone cannot meet all their needs and they have nowhere to turn.  Others are sick and dying but all their wealth cannot buy them a cure.  Still others in their desperation have turned to drugs and alcohol to fill their deepest needs only to find  themselves more needy than others.  Then there are the poorest among us who have given up and convinced themselves they need no one, not even God.

For a few weeks the joy and delight of the Christmas season offer many distractions from the reality of our lives.  Christmas day comes, the gifts are opened, the special dinners are enjoyed, the shopping is over, the carols are silenced for another year, the needles on the tree begin to drop, decorations are put away and for many a heaviness sets in as winter unfolds and the deepest longings of our hearts resurface.  The ordinariness of daily life takes over and we are confronted with unresolved challenges.

Now what?  Perhaps this is the time of the year when we find our peace and joy in embracing the reality of our lives.  We are all poor.  We need a Savior.  Parents don’t have the answer to all the issues involving their children; priests do not have all the solutions for their people coming to them with their challenges; none of us can change the past; no one can predict our futures; governments cannot solve all the problems of the nations; and not one of us can make our lives perfect.  We can, however, accept our own poverty and trust that our Lord, the Holy One, is in charge of our lives.  We have no gift to bring to the Lord except our very lives as they are right now,  in this here and now moment.  In our poverty we are called to surrender to the HOLY ONE.  Here is where we receive the true gift of joy and peace, knowing that we have a Savior who cares for us, loves us unconditionally, has a plan for our lives, and will help us to accomplish the purpose for which we have been created.

It is with this awareness and with this perfect peace and joy coming from above that we are able to give the gift of unconditional love to all we meet.  This gift of love that we carry in our hearts and that we share with others is a gift that stays with us and those who are recipients long after the last carols are sung.  This gift of love makes every winter day bright and cheerful.  This gift of love, joy and peace that comes from allowing the Lord to be in charge of our lives will enable us to go beyond our poverty in order to reach out to others with the wisdom we receive to be there for all our brothers and sisters according to their needs.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked upon our lowliness and has done great things for us…..He has lifted up the lowly.  The hungry he has filled with good things…..”  (Paraphrased Luke 1:46-52)

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Responses

  1. Fr Mike The Christmas story you told was beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes! I have been blessed with many wonderful Christmas memories. Thank you for this lovely reflection. Christos Razdajetsya! Slavite Yeho! M>M>

  2. Thank You Father Moran for another year of “Reflections”. They give us all a lift. Patty and I wish you a peaceful and quiet Christmas. And a Healthy and Happy 2011. Charlie K. & Patty Kake.

  3. Thanks Uncle Mickey. Georgie and I love reading your “Reflections” We hope you have a blessed Christmas. Hopefully we will get to visit soon. Hope you are doing well and enjoying this wonderful time of year.

  4. Hi Uncle Mike,
    With this very busy time of year, especially today, your message is perfect and reminds us of the true gift. I am looking forward to sharing this gift tonight – and just being with all my sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews!
    Love you
    Diana

  5. Dear Father Mike,
    Thank you for another wonderful message! The reflections that you offer us throughout the year and the love that you have for others are a greatly appreciated gift.
    My family and I wish you a healthy and happy new year.
    Michael


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