As Christmas approaches, the shopping malls are decorated with fairy lights, Christmas trees and Santa Claus to encourage people to buy gifts. We receive greeting cards from family and friends who are thinking of us fondly and wish us Christ's blessings of joy and peace. Christmas carols and songs already create an atmosphere of rejoicing.
We celebrate the gift of life as we remember Jesus the prince of Peace who entered into our world the first Christmas as a newly born babe in the stable of Bethlehem. He came that we may have life and have it abundantly. The abundance was not in plenty of food, drink, presents, loud laughter and merriment, but in God's grace given on that silent night to those who believed and welcomed the Savior of the world.
This Christmas is an occasion to share the gift of life with others in need. The November edition of the Reader's Digest urged us, its readers to donate our organs when we die so that others might live. How wonderful to think that our eyes, kidneys, liver, heart and even our skin can be gifted to someone in need, when we die. After all, we do not need these any more for when we rise again we will receive new bodies.
But even when we are alive, we can all be life-giving to others through our words and actions. All day long, we receive many occasions to express our thanks, appreciation and encouragement to others we meet. We can also use the phone or write a letter (or SMS) to do this. The email gives us instant access to those who are far away. We can lift up the hearts of others to the Lord, by words of life. It does not cost us much effort or money to be life-giving in this way. When I receive a card or a letter, I can envisage the face of the sender and recall many happy memories of that person.
Marriage Encounter encourages couples to write a small letter to each other everyday to express love, gratitude and caring. Recently a friend died and his wife is so grateful for the letters she received from him in which he expressed his love and shared from his heart. The Gospel speaks of the importance of caring, sharing and bearing one another's burdens. Words of life can do this so well and easily.
We can also be life-giving in our actions. We can give a helping hand to someone, do a small act of service, share with someone in need, visit a person who is lonely or take the first step to be reconciled with someone who is hurt. Jesus tells us that at our particular judgment we will be asked : "When I was hungry did you give me to eat?" He gives us many opportunities everyday to love and serve him in the least of his brothers and sisters.
We do not have to look very far to find someone in need.
When we are life-giving in our words and actions, we take the focus off ourselves and reach out to see Jesus in others around us. This makes us more like Jesus and we can actually be Jesus to one another, for He truly lives in us.
St Francis of Assisi was known as the "Poverello" which means the little, poor man. By wedding 'Lady Poverty' Francis discovered true freedom in Christ. He was a very loving man filled with the joy of living the Gospel he proclaimed. Francis became aware of all Creation as his brothers and sisters. Brother Sun and Sister Moon gave him light for which he praised and thanked the Creator. The animals and birds, the rivers and trees were alive to Francis. He shared all he had with those in need and joyfully shared the gift of life with generosity and kindness.
Francis gave us our first Christmas crib. There is a prayer attributed to him which we sing: "Make me a channel of your peace." I am sure we are all familiar with it. As we reflect on the words of this popular hymn, we will find opportunities to share the gift of life in our words and actions with all we meet. We may not have the money to give expensive gifts to others but we can all be life-giving by being thoughtful, kind and loving.
As we venerate the Babe of Bethlehem, we will join the simple shepherds in praising and thanking God for Jesus our Savior who is eager to enter into the world of so many people who are longing for the peace that only He, the Prince of Peace can bring in lasting measure. Ours may be the only voices he uses to speak life-giving words to someone, this Christmas. Ours, likewise, may be the only hands he uses to be life-giving in action. So let us offer him our voices and hands as we proclaim:
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart, prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing, (2)
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing.
Joy to the world ! The Saviour reigns,
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods
Rocks, hills and plains,
Repeat the sounding joy (2)
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.
Remember joy is not an absence of suffering but the presence of God. We can experience and share the joy that Jesus brings at Christmas, when we consciously live in His presence and make him present to each other by the gift of life-giving words and actions.