Do you have a hard time shopping for just the right gift? I often worry that what I give will not be liked or I will get the polite “Thank you” and the gift will end up in the back of closet or will be on the re gift list. I wonder if God felt the same way when he gave the gift of Himself in Jesus. Will they like the gift I am giving? So, what does the gift of Jesus mean? It is pure Love! It is the gift that keeps on giving!
In Jesus we find hope. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I have a hard time keeping a sense of hope. World and national unrest, seeing many families try to deal with the stresses of today’s hectic pace of life, a rise in the opioid crisis, so many teens and people in the 20 and 30’s struggling with the stresses of life and sometimes choosing to opt out of life, people are hungry and cold and then all our own personal stresses. Isaiah re focuses us on the fact that the coming of a Savior would radically alter the world and begin something new. This new way of life can be ours! But, we need to surrender to Jesus as Lord for hope to be born is us. Will you, can I, open our hearts right now to Jesus as Lord?
With a heart surrendered to Jesus, hope is born in us. Nothing that will separate us from him and our hope will change the world. This doesn’t mean that the road will be smooth and carefree, but our response will be. Hope is the foundation; it is the true meaning of Christmas. In the birth of Jesus, hope was born anew. On the Cross, it was given to all and its proof is the empty tomb. Even death itself is destroyed by the Hope born today. Can we allow God to be born is us right now?
It is living as a hope filled people that keeps us on focused on Jesus even when we struggle with our faith. My belief is that if we are rooted in the hope that we are given today, any question about Catholic belief or misunderstandings can be asked and discussed. As long we stand firm in the fundamental and core beliefs of the faith, as long as we remain rooted in Jesus, we will find our answers. Look at the Shepherds in the Nativity story. You can’t tell me them they bought into the angel’s message not have any questions or doubts. But, when they say God Himself lying in dirty straw and surrounded by all the animals and odors of a barn, they believed. Hope and Love radiated from that scene and changed the shepherds’ hearts. Even the greatest of our saints struggled with parts of what we believe, but what makes them saints is that they didn’t give up the Church in their struggle. Their hearts were fixed on Jesus and him alone. I know how hard it is to be faithful given some of the news we hear about the behavior of some of the clergy and bishops, but, remember Jesus is the head of the Church. His mission continues despite the behavior of others because the Church is not just them; it is each one of us. Are we focused on the hope that Jesus is or only on the negative behaviors of others? Are we allowing other’s behaviors to keep us from Christ, especially Christ present in the Holy Eucharist?
My brothers and sisters, God doesn’t worry if we like His gift, if we want it, or just leave it unwrapped in the darkness of the closet of our hearts. He just keeps offering his Love made Human in Jesus. He just keeps offering the Hope that was born in poverty and as a fragile Child. Maybe tomorrow or tonight before we open our gifts, we can all take a few moments and open the gift that God gives, Jesus himself. All it takes is a couple of moments, and a simple prayer: Thank you Lord for the Hope that is born in me this day! Thank you for Jesus, Hope itself.