by Deacon Tony Zimmerman
Recently, my wife and I had dinner with other families in our parish.
The hostess for this dinner had her home beautifully decorated for Christmas. Everywhere I looked there were colorful and bright decorations. Even though this dinner occurred on the eve of the First Sunday of Advent, it made all the anticipated joy of Christmas Day very present. Even the meal was reminiscent of a wonderful Christmas dinner.
At the center of all of this beauty was a space reserved for family pictures. These memories and mementos of loved ones and times spent together are very much at the heart of what we will celebrate in a few short days. In the midst of this joyful scene was a reminder of how fragile life and its joys can be. There were family and individual pictures of her husband and two sons who have passed away due to accidents or serious illness. The contrast of the joy in the decorations, the dinner and the upcoming Christmas season compared to the losses and sorrow, which also make up life, was really present to me.
When we came home, the television, which had been left on, was playing the closing scenes from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” In those scenes, George Bailey celebrates all the ways he has been blessed in his life, from his wife Mary, his children and all the people he had helped or who had helped him to this point in his life.
As all of the images from dinner and those from this movie flooded my mind, I stopped and considered, “What does all this mean in my life? Where is God present in this moment?”
Maybe the answer is found in the Gospel from the First Sunday of Advent when we are reminded to be vigilant in our lives so that the anxieties of daily life don’t overwhelm us that we are caught off guard at the coming of Christ.
We cannot let the hustle and bustle of finding the perfect gift or getting to all the parties blind us to the real gifts that God has given us in our lives.
Over the next few days, pull back from all the busyness and reflect on the gift of love that God has sent into your life in your spouse, your children, grandchildren, coworkers or friends. Perhaps write a note or take some quiet time to tell each person of the gift they have been in your life.
Then, before you say your prayer before Christmas dinner, go around the table and affirm the goodness and blessing each person is for you. Be specific in naming their quality that brings God’s love into your life. This will be the best Christmas gift of all.