On a Christmas Eve some years ago a mother was busy with getting everything ready around the house. Twenty people were coming for dinner on Christmas Day and she was running out of time. She asked her six-year old son to polish her shoes that she would be wearing to church the next day. The boy did a nice job with the shoes and mom gave him two quarters to buy candy.
On Christmas morning, she slipped her feet into her shoes to go to church. She felt something inside. You guessed it. Each shoe had a quarter inside. Each quarter was wrapped with a small piece of paper that read: I DID IT FOR LOVE! These five words, I DID IT FOR LOVE are the driving force and the horsepower behind everything good and worthwhile that happens in our lives.
It may be something ever so small, like polishing shoes, getting the house ready for Christmas, cleaning the kitchen or writing a thoughtful and caring note on a Christmas card. But I DID IT FOR LOVE!
Or it may be something ever so great that it blows our minds. Dan Coyle, a 52-year old man in Evanston, Illinois donated one of his kidneys to Myra de la Vega, a 49-year old Filipino immigrant who needed a kidney to live. She is a single-mother raising two teenagers. She was the check-out lady at his local grocery store. He gave her his kidney with no strings attached. How could someone give one of their kidneys to a check-out lady at the grocery store? I DID IT FOR LOVE!
At Christmas we not only ask the question: Why was Jesus born? We also ask the question: Why was I born? The two questions go together. I was born to do little and big things for others out of love. I was born to love and to be loved by others.
Jesus was born to do little things, like being born in a stable, out of love. And Jesus was born to do really big things, like dying on a cross for love.
Everyday you and I have an endless string of opportunities, large and small, to do things for love. The Child Jesus didn’t have to be born. It was a choice by God the Father and the Holy Spirit to send us human beings the best gift of all – Jesus! God DID IT FOR LOVE!
What drives and motivate my life are the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:8: “What you have been given as a gift, now give as a gift.” Everything I have in my life is a gift from God. God gave me life and brains and the ability to study and learn – so I became a priest. I’ve had good health to serve others here in the United States and in Haiti. All of these are gifts from God, all of them. I now live so close to the magnificent ocean, I wear nice clothes and I eat great food. All are gifts from a most loving God.
What am I to do with all these wonderful gifts I have received from God? Give them away – as gifts to others. This is the only way I will ever find the true and lasting Joy I search for in my life.
Christmas is all about presents and presence. We give presents….but we want presence. I send out and I receive 200 Christmas cards every year. About 150 of these cards are simply an exchange of cards. You send me a card each year and I send you a card every year. But about 50 of those cards I will hold in my hands for awhile before I write some words.
These cards are all about presence: You came and walked the halls of the hospital after my prostate cancer surgery. You comforted my dad for 15 months while he was paralyzed and dying so I could get some sleep. You threw those wonderful surprise parties for my 40th, 50th and 60th birthdays. You were there for me during my crises so I could scream and cry.
Presents are great, but presence is what we are really looking for at Christmas and everyday of the year. God the Father, the Holy Spirit and Jesus give us both today during our mass. We have the gift of Jesus at Bethlehem and the real and the loving Jesus present in the Eucharist. Jesus is more present to me here than all the people I care about who sent me Christmas cards.
Presents…..Presence….Today God gives us both….
Have a Blessed Christmas!