They have kidnapped Christmas and are holding this day for a huge ransom. We are expected to spend every dollar and then go into debt in order to celebrate and rejoice. Run as fast as you can to the store; get on the internet and shop until you drop, finding the right gift for everyone on your list, naughty or nice. You better watch out, because Santa is watching and he knows if you deserve a gift or coal or something a bit nicer. Once Christmas is over with, then you can finally relax a bit, and recover from exhaustion and work to pay off your debt. From Thanksgiving on, we are bombarded with advertising and Christmas music to evoke panic within us. We are filled with guilt if we are not planning and working to make everyone happy; we need to buy some love.

We don’t get it – or we do and just suffer from some amnesia. Love cannot be bought or sold. Love is a free gift or it is not love. We buy things, and at times, we treat people like things to be bought or sold. We buy things for the poor, and assuage our guilt a bit. We go out of our way to do wonderful things that make us feel good for a minute or two. Eventually, things get back to normal and the poor are forgotten and ignored once again. The lonely, the dispossessed, the rejects of society are once again pushed aside in our memories for another year. Families gather and re-connect and then disperse to the four winds and we move one. This is the way of life; it is the way of Christmas. It is a feel good season that helps us cope with all of the pain in the world, if only for a moment.

It seems that the Gospel message is so much bigger than this. The story gets a bit twisted. We hear the story of God so in love with Creation; with humanity, that God empties him/herself in order to become one with the beloved. We hear the stories of Jesus teaching the disciples to let go of their own ego, or their own self and to lay down their lives for others – even the stranger. The stories of Jesus are more than pablum for children. They teach us to let go of our own wants and desires, ignoring the needs of others, and to look beyond the end of our own nose. We are called to look around; to listen carefully to the world that we live in. Jesus calls us to become gift for others, recognizing that we receive gifts every single second of every single day. Others feed us in so many ways; they heal our wounded souls and they slake our thirst for hope. We receive the gift of life itself from our mothers womb; we are nurtured and fed and healed along the way. When we receive these gifts, they touch our soul; they go beyond the body. When someone else actually looks at us and recognizes that we are connected, we are fed. When we really look at others; look beyond the surface and see a human person, wounded and starving for hope, we are gift for them. We receive and give gifts each day of our lives.

As Jesus teaches, life itself is the greatest possession that we are given. He teaches us to give this gift away with abandon. And when we do this, we receive the gift of eternal life. It is in giving that we receive. It is in letting go, that we receive. Life overcomes death and the light overcomes darkness. Jesus teaches us how to become adults – to let go of being children and go grow up and assume responsibility for our world. We are called to proclaim the Good News of Eternal Life – God emptying self; Jesus emptying self for the sake to all. Love is so much more than emotions – of feeling good. Love is sacrifice and joining in the human struggle to become one with God by recognizing that we are all children of the same God – we are brothers and sisters – we are Cain and Able but we are also one with Jesus. When we gather to celebrate a common meal, we celebrate our stories; we celebrate our oneness – as the food that we consume, feeds the soul – it unites us and gives life to all. We are called to recognize that All are Welcome at this table – we are all blind, deaf, lame and lacking understanding. We are like the disciples, called, in spite of our imperfections, to bring the gift of life that we possess to a wounded and suffering world. This demands something of our selves; it requires that we seek deep within us that Sprit of God that touches the world and makes it holy and then to share that with all that we encounter on our common journey. Love is not easy; it is demanding that we empty ourselves in order to be filled with the gift of life that enriches all.

Peace and all blessings to each and everyone.

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