Apart from putting up the Christmas tree, the Crib and the decorations at home, shopping has also been an integral part of our Christmas preparations. Despite the numerous homilies in Advent to not “commercialize” Christmas, no one can run away from it either. Not just shopping for ourselves but also buying gifts for others… I happened to be at a shopping mall recently and was truly amazed at the number of people lining up at gift wrapping counters. I am sure many companies give their utmost attention during this season to come up with many innovative and attractive gifts. Today not only can we buy gifts from going personally to shop but we can also stay at home and shop on the internet…

I remember reading an article where a large electrical store came up with the idea of giving you a picture of the gift so that you could wrap it and put it under the tree for the person…it would not be possible if you got someone a TV or a hi-fi set and wanted to put it on the tree. However some years later they took off the idea…and people said that those who received gifts were not too excited about receiving a picture of the gift as opposed to physically having the gift and unwrapping it on Christmas morning…there is greater excitement. I have seen the same in many homes…..children who receive gift vouchers don’t show the same excitement as when they receive something in hand on Christmas morning.
It is the same today…we come together to celebrate a gift – JESUS. The gift is not a memory of a past event or something that we can redeem in the future. It is a REAL gift – a gift that only we who celebrate the birth of Jesus can appreciate. For this reason then, I would like to reflect on this three(3) characteristics of this GIFT:

1. A gift that proclaims the promise of God: During this season of Advent, paying close attention to the readings at Mass, the Old Testament speaks of the promise that God made his people and He will see to its fulfilment. That is why in Mary’s Song of Praise (Magnificat): “He has come to the help of his servant Israel, for he remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever” (Lk 1:46-55). In other words, this is not an empty promise nor is it a conditional promise like how we tell our children…”Santa knows if you have been good or bad” In short, what this gift shows is that God is faithful to us… are we faithful to Him?

2. A gift that lasts forever: This gift neither needs a battery to operate nor to be plugged in to be charged, not even a power bank to keep it running. It is a never ending, never dying gift. It has a built-in UPS – uninterrupted power supply. So then how does this gift sustain itself? All it requires is a relationship – that you and I relate to God daily. This is what gives life to this gift. Often we feel that God is distant and that he does not hear my prayer. This happens because we only turn to him when we are in need of something. At other times, it is just 1 Our Father, 3 Hail Mary’s, 1 Glory be and Good night Jesus. What this means is that this gift needs a relationship so as to bring meaning – not a season relationship but one that is consistent and constant. It is strange to sometimes see people believe in Santa Claus & Christmas Trees but not in Jesus the ultimate gift of God.

3. A gift that gives hope: When the child Jesus was born into the world, the angels sang to the shepherds – the very first recipients of the good news. They were considered no one in the sight of society. Now the coming of this gift indicated that they are important in the eyes of God. If God has called us here today to celebrate the birth of His Son Jesus, it is because you and I are important to Him. Despite our failures, our weaknesses, and our sinfulness – He still considers us important to Him. But the question we should ask as we receive this gift… Is He important to us? It is not just in words but how do we show that He is important – not once or twice a year but everyday in our daily lives?

The gift that we receive today comes neither from Marks & Spencer nor from Toys R Us… It has no shiny wrapping paper or a green and red ribbon around it. It comes to us from a stable and only wrapped in swaddling clothes. But it is a priceless gift and no money can buy or no one can demand. It is a GIFT. You and I are special and we are privileged to receive this GIFT – so let us treasure it by remaining close to Jesus, let us give life to it by developing a relationship in prayer with Jesus, let us be inspired by it as we share Jesus with others through acts of love and kindness. May this gift at Christmas be a life changing moment for all of us. Amen.