Monday, December 22, 2014

Stories of Gratitude

Santa & the Meaning of Christmas
Santa Claus said to a couple of parents and grandparents:“Teach your children the true meaning of Christmas.”

He reached into his bag and pulled out a FIR TREE: “Teach your children that the fir tree’s green color symbolizes hope, and so always hope or trust in God; and the needles on the fir tree point heavenward, so every day think about the presence of God in your own life.

Santa pulled out a brilliant STAR.  “The star symbolizes the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Savior. So keep your promises.

He pulled out a CANDLE.  “The candle symbolizes Christ, the light of the world, who scatters the darkness all around us.” So as you go about your daily routine, ask yourself: What would Jesus do?

Santa pulled out an ornament of HIMSELF.  “Santa symbolizes generosity and good will.  So be generous with what you have and think positively about people.”

Santa then hung a CANDY CANE on the tree.  “The candy cane symbolizes a shepherd’s staff which helps to bring strayed sheep back.  So become your “brother’s keeper.”

He reached in once more and pulled out an ANGEL.  “Teach your children that the angels sang the glorious news of the Savior’s birth.”

Yes, symbols can invite us to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas, and bow down, like the shepherds or the wise men, to worship Christ, Emmanuel, God-with-us, with gratitude.

Somehow, the power of God broke into the life of Mary of Nazareth, asking Mary to believe that she would bear within herself a special child.  Mary was so attuned to the presence of God, she said simply: be it done to me as you say.

 These words are easy to say when everything is going our way; but they are not so easy when what is happening is the opposite of what we want to happen.

But Mary’s “Yes” gave us the Christmas story: the world’s greatest love story.  That story, as it has come down to us, tells of a baby in a trough. It tells of a mother holding her child in her arms as her husband Joseph stays near. It tells of angels singing in the sky; shepherds running over the hillside to tell the child how much they loved him.

Yes, it tells of a star guiding people over the desert and onto their knees to worship.

Centuries ago, St. John summed up this greatest love story in a single line: “The Word became flesh.”
Christmas means not simply God in Bethlehem centuries ago, but God within us.

We bear within ourselves Emmanuel, God with us, by virtue of the waters of baptism.  Wherever we gather together in his name before the Word of God and around the Table of the Lord, the altar. We are by grace what Jesus Christ is by nature: sons and daughters of God. That is God’s gift to us.

May we this Christmas bring to the Christ-child our greatest gift: ourselves.


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