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with Deacon Tom Fox
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YOU ARE THE GIFT
It is just about to begin Advent as I work on this column. And yet – my heart is filled with thoughts of Christmas because this will be a column for all of December. So hi again moms. I send you wishes for a holy Advent and a most tender and love-filled Christmas.
As I often do in my preaching – or in my columns – let me get us underway with a story: “The knock on the door startled me. It was 10 am, and the house was an embarrassing mess. How could I get rid of this person? I opened the door a crack, hoping they wouldn’t see what lay behind me. I saw the friendly face of my neighbor, and it hit me, like a bolt of lightening – This is Christ at my door! By not opening up to her, I’m shutting Him out, just as the innkeepers did in Bethlehem! I opened the door wide, gave a smile of welcome, and invited her to sit down at the messy table. I put the kettle on for tea, and set about clearing the table and sweeping the floor, as I chatted with her. When I had finished that much, I sat down to have tea with her and to give her my full attention. She started to pour out her heart to me, and to cry, and I listened and wiped her tears.
As she got up to leave, she said, “I needed to share this with someone. I thought of you, just as I was passing your house. Thank you for listening. I feel so much better, and I think I can go home and start again. Thank you for welcoming me so warmly.” If you only knew, I thought….” Yes – if you only knew….
Now if you’ll permit me to tell one more sort of related story – then I’ll come to my point for this December and Christmas column.
Not terribly long ago, at all weekend Masses, my wife and I bid farewell to our parish in Colorado – just before moving to Arizona. The parish held a cake and coffee reception line so that we could say goodbye to parishioners (and many visitors in this tourist town) who wished to do so. One young mother with two sweet looking children came up to me. She had tears running down her face. Quite honestly, I didn’t have a clue who she was.
“I just wanted you to know that you’re the reason I’m coming to Church.” Surprised, I asked why she said that. “About two years ago, you stopped me and said how great it was that I was coming to Mass with my two very young and active children. You said that I was giving them a great example and an early start on the faith. The other Church I used to go to didn’t act welcoming and they made me feel like I shouldn’t bring my kids.”
Well, I had no memory of that encounter of a few years earlier. But it does go to the point that we are all gift, one to another if we but remember it.
Christmas is such an exciting time. Christmas can be a demanding time. If you read this during Advent, perhaps you are trying as best you can to prepare for a new coming of Christ in your heart and in the hearts of your loved ones. There are holiday treats and parties and shopping to be done… there is the every-year question ‘what can I give for Christmas?’
My answer – my hope – and my own personal goal is to try to be a gift to the ones around me – a gift to those that need it the most. That may mean stopping and fixing a cuppa tea or coffee for someone who (unexpectedly) needs an ear. It may be getting up in the middle of the night for the fourth time to respond to a sick child… and doing so with love and patience. It may be carving out time to warm the fire of your love with your spouse when you need sleep or to be doing ten other things…
You are the Christmas gift that only you can give. You are the only gift that God wanted someone else to have. You are the emissary of the Christ child this season. Turn to the Babe and ask for help and guidance! Merry Christmas. I love you. I am in prayer for you.
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