Here we are on the eve of the eve! Frantic last minute preparations – decorating, wrapping, shopping, baking…! Many of us will go to church on the eve to celebrate a candlelight mass or to see the children’s Christmas pageant. The anticipation just builds and builds towards a magical moment when we can let loose of all the preparation and move into celebration. And all of us, children and grown-ups alike, become giddy at the prospect of seeing what is inside that package under the tree. The one with the big bow, or the one in the shape of that certain thing we had been hoping for. In my house, as in many of yours, it will be the children who pass out the gifts. They may pile up on your lap or around your feet in surprising abundance. And as you open the boxes, pulling on the ribbons or popping off the bows, we look with gratitude at what is revealed. A book, a scarf, a deluxe grilling tool set, a video game, a doll? Maybe there will even be a little disappointment at what you have received. The wrong thing, the wrong size or color, or maybe it is something that is just not “you.” Whether we respond with joy, gratitude, or disappointment at what sits in our lap, it doesn’t change that it was a gift, freely given, expressly to us. Maybe even given by someone for whom we did not give a gift to.
And what gift does God bring us on this day? Inside the biggest, shiniest package under the tree, we will find the unconditional love that is God’s grace. That grace may not always come in the shape or size or color we wanted, but somehow it always fits us anyway. God’s example of grace helps us to extend that unconditional love to one another – to your children and your partner, to the family member with whom you are in conflict, to those who are around your tree for the first time in a while, to those who have gone ahead and are missed so deeply, to your neighbors and acquaintances, to those who will spend this Christmas alone, or hungry, or forgotten. God’s gift of grace is one-size-fits-all.
Dear Lord, Help us this Christmas to greet all gifts as if they were your gifts – the gift of grace, of unconditional love, and the gift of his son, Jesus, savior of us all, born this day.
It is this we treasure. This the real gift.