by Father Mark Goldasich
By the time you get this issue of The Leaven, I’m certain that all your Christmas cards are written and mailed, all your gifts are bought and wrapped, and your entire house has been cleaned and decorated in holiday finery.
But, on the off chance that you’re still in need of a last-minute, emergency gift, maybe you can draw inspiration from this story:
During the Depression, many families could scarcely afford the bare essentials, much less purchase presents at Christmas.
“But I’ll tell you what we can do,” said a father to his six-year-old son, Pete. “We can use our imaginations and find pictures of the presents we would like to give each other.”
For the next few days, each member of the family worked secretly, but with great joy. On Christmas morning, huddled around a scraggly tree decorated with pitifully few decorations, they gathered to exchange the presents they had created.
And what gifts they were!
Daddy got a shiny black limo and a red motorboat. Mom received a diamond bracelet and a new hat. Little Pete had fun opening his gifts: a drawing of a swimming pool and pictures of toys cut from magazines. Then it was Pete’s turn to give his present to his parents. With great delight, he handed them a brightly colored crayon drawing of three people — a man, woman and little boy. They had their arms around one another and under the picture was one word: US.
Even though future Christmases were far more prosperous for this family, none stood out in the family’s memory as more precious that this one: that happy day when they realized they still had one another and their ability to laugh and celebrate. (Adapted from “A Christmas Special,” found in “Love Adds a Little Chocolate,” by Father Medard Laz.)
What a great idea! Even if you’ve purchased all your gifts, consider giving just one more. No doubt, you probably have a whole stack of Christmas magazines, gift catalogs and ads scattered around the house. Gather them up and spend a little bit of time going over your Christmas gift list once more. Pick out several people whose names are listed there. Then scour those magazines, catalogs and ads for some extravagant, special present to “give” each one.
Cut out the picture of that fabulous gift and attach a note to it. Say something like: “This is what I’d like to give you — had I hit that half a billion dollar Powerball jackpot — as a sign of how valuable your ______ (here fill in something like: love, support, friendship, sense of humor, wisdom, encouragement, zest for life, etc.) is to me. Know how honored and grateful I am that you are a part of my life. You make it so much richer.” Put the note in an envelope and hand it to the person after all of the other presents are opened.
Giving pictures of valuable items to those priceless people in our lives may be the best gift of all and the one most treasured by the recipient.
Honestly, physical presents — no matter how costly — pale in comparison with the real gifts of Christmas: a loving family, loyal friends, good health, a roof over our head, food and drink to enjoy and share and, most important of all, the real reason we celebrate at all: Jesus, the light of the world and our lives.
I close with a prayer for Christmas, written by Robert Louis Stephenson: “O God, our loving Father, help us rightly to remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, the worship of the wise men. Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting. Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts. May Christmas morning make us happy to be your children and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven for Jesus’ sake. Amen.”