Dear Friends! I wish you a Merry Christmas. This year instead of preaching from the pulpit I will be gathering children near the manger and talk to them more in the form of question and answer. Therefore I’m presenting here only just some illustrations, and points for reflections
- Children: What kind of gifts do you expect this year for Christmas? … Do you remember the gifts you got last year, or 5 years back and where are they now? Or your birthday gifts you received do you remember them all? God has given us all a gift, unforgettable gift … the gift of baby Jesus…
- Why should God give us the gift of His Own Son?
Illustration: Stella was eight years old. She was bright, funny, and relatively independent. But Stella hated one thing: she hated a thunderstorm. When the lightening flashed and the thunder crashed, Stella froze. She did not want to be alone. Now her parents knew this and tried to avoid any upcoming trouble. One day, they realized that a rather large storm was scheduled to pass over their home just about bedtime. They were hoping that they could keep Stella up until the storm was over, but the storm took its time, and it was growing late.
So finally, they said, “Stella, there’s big storm coming but it’s very late so why don’t you go upstairs and go to bed and we promise that we will not go to sleep until the storm is over. So you don’t need to be afraid because we will be right downstairs.”
Now Stella didn’t like this idea. But she was very tired. So she went up to bed and fell immediately to sleep. KABOOM! The house shook with thunder. Stella sat up in her bed and cried out, “Mommy! Daddy!” Her mother ran up the stairs, held her, and said, “Yes, that was a loud one, but we’re right downstairs. I think the worst is over so go back to sleep.”
Her mother left. Stella lay down. But she did not go to sleep, because she didn’t think the storm was over. She was right. KABOOM-BOOM!! Stella cried out again, “Mommy, Daddy”. This time her father came up. He held her. “Honey,” he said, “this is a really bad storm. But don’t be afraid because we’re right downstairs. And as your mom told you, God is always with you.”
Stella thought for a moment and then she said, “I know that God is always with me, but I need someone with skin on!”
Don’t we all? Don’t we all need someone with skin on? It is important that people love us, but don’t we need to be able to see that love, to hear that love, to touch that love. We need love with skin on.
God knows this. God knows that we need love that we can see, hear, and touch.
3) Sharing God’ of gift: How many of you have seen Santa Claus or taken a photo with him this year?
The history of Santa Claus begins with a real historical person. His name was Nicholas, and he was a Christian, a believer. In fact he was a bishop. Nicholas was bishop of a town called Myra in Asia Minor, which is present day Turkey. It was a seaport on the Mediterranean coast. We know that Nicholas existed because in 325 the Great Council of Nicea took place. This council gave us the creed which we will profess in just a few moments, and Nicholas was numbered among the bishops that attended the council. The most significant thing we know about Nicholas was that he was committed to help people who were in desperate need. The most famous story of his providing such help has a direct connection to Santa Claus.
It seems there lived in Myra during the time of Nicholas a poor man who had three daughters. All three daughters were ready to be married. But they could not take this step because their father could not afford to provide them with a dowry. In the world at this time an unmarried woman would be disgraced, and it was the responsibility of the family to provide daughters with a sum of money to arrange a marriage. The poor man did not have the money and so his daughters were prevented from having their own family and children. It was a desperate situation. The man even considered selling one of his daughters into slavery so that he could raise money to marry off the other two. But he could not bring himself to do this. Nicholas heard of the situation. One night he went out quietly with a bag of gold which he threw into the window of the poor man’s house. The next morning when the man found the gold he was delighted and gave it to his eldest daughter for her dowry. But there were two more daughters and so on two subsequent nights Nicholas again went out and threw gold into the poor man’s window so that all of his daughters could enter married life.
Now you can see in this story the beginnings of Santa Claus. Remember that at this time of history people married much earlier than today. Marriages were usually arranged when a girl was about 12 years old. Therefore, the action of Nicholas coming at night and secretly providing gold for the children of the poor man eventually developed into the story of the kindly old man who brought gifts to all the children of the world. Now of course it took centuries for St. Nicholas to become Santa Claus. But you can hear still the connection in the names. You can hear the word “Saint” in the word “Santa” and of course “Claus” is the last syllable of Nicholas.
A comparison between St. Nicholas and Santa Claus. For there are two qualities of St. Nicholas that are largely absent in our culture’s perception of Santa Claus. Santa Claus is always connected with gifts and the magic of the season. St. Nicholas is connected with service and faith. Yes, Santa’s gift giving originated with St. Nicholas but St. Nicholas did not give gifts simply to bring a smile to children’s faces. He gave gifts in order to rescue those in desperate situations.
So the gift giving of Nicholas was not simply to make children happy. It was an act of service, an act to save those in need. And why did Nicholas act in that way? Not because he was a jolly old fellow. But because he was a person of faith. Nicholas was a believer. He understood the meaning of the feast we celebrate today: that God so loved the world that God sent God’s only son to be one of us—that Jesus was, in the words of the angel in today’s gospel, our Savior. Therefore, if God has saved us, then we in turn are called to save one another. If God has loved us, then our role is to do what Nicholas did, to serve others because of God’s goodness.
4) Eucharist: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Do you know where Jesus was born? “Bethlehem” ‘Beth’ means – house and ‘lehem’ means bread = House of bread… Jesus chose to provide food for all…
Christ is with us in many ways, through scripture, through the least of his brothers and sisters, through the Church, but the Eucharist is the most pure and perfect way we connect with him and be nourished by him. Do not miss the food he gives you and me… He does not give only once a year on Christmas but every time come to church for the Mass…
It is a blessing for me to celebrate with you Jesus’ birth. I hope that from these thoughts you might take something with you to help you know why you should celebrate today.