The season of Advent is often overshadowed by a rush to the malls to buy the perfect gift for friends, family members and co-workers. We get caught up by the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season that we forget about the greatest gift of all, Christ, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. To redirect your Christmas preparation towards Christ, I offer the below ideas.
1) Donate to Charity
In next Sunday’s Gospel (The Third Sunday of Advent), the crowds ask St. John the Baptist what they must do to repent of their sin. He says to them, “He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” (Luke 3:11) In America, many of us are blessed by God with the things that we need, and often more. As winter approaches, it would be a great time to clean out your closet and give away items you no longer use to the poor, who may not have a coat for the cold weather.
If you are really ambitious, give away something that you enjoy and still use but could do without. This type of giving challenges us to put love for God above material possessions. Just as the Lord asked the rich man in Mark 10:21 to “Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor” so he challenges us today to follow him and be detached from material possessions.
2) Include donations to your favorite charity as items on you Christmas gift list this year.
Recently, my mom has asked our family to use the money that we would have spent on a Christmas gift for her and buy something from the Food for the Hungry Catalog, an organization that helps bring food, clothing, water, and health care to those around the world who are truly in need. This has been an inspiring example to me. Although there are a few things around the house that my mom could legitimately benefit from with a Christmas gift, she foregoes looking after her own needs and asks for gifts to be sent to the poor around the world.
So instead of asking for everything on your Christmas list this year, maybe ask your family donate some of the money they would have spent on you to give to your favorite charity, or use some money you receive as a Christmas gift to serve others. I encourage you to do this in the spirit of St. Paul who said in Acts 20:35 “For it is better to give than receive” (Acts 20:35).
3) Give the gift of love to your family and friends this Christmas.
Consider the following two options: you received all of the gifts on your Christmas list on Christmas morning but have to enjoy them by yourself, or you get a few of the things you want at Christmas, but get to spend the day with those most special to you. I think that given these two options most people would choose the latter one. There is something inside of each person that wants to share life with others. We were not meant to be alone nor were we meant to enjoy the good things of life by ourselves. Gifts can not make us happy, whereas sharing in God’s creation with others can.
I think often we forget this at Christmas because the focus is so concentrated on the amount of money we spend on gifts for other people. Gifts are alright, but what many of us are pining for today is love. So as we approach Christmas, be proactive in spending quality time with family and friends. Strive to show each of them love in the way that speaks most to them. Maybe it’s baking cookies with grandma, assembling the new toy on Christmas with a younger sibling, writing a letter of appreciation to your parents, the list goes on and on. Make it a point that those closest to you know that you love them by your actions and words, and not just the amount of money you spend on a Christmas gift for them.
As we remember the Christmas story how Jesus has given us Himself as a gift of great love, may we reflect that love to all those we meet during this Christmas season. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast day we celebrate today, and St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse, may we thoroughly prepare for the coming of Christ into our hearts this Christmas.