As trees are decorated, wreaths are hung, houses glisten with lights and the familiar sounds of seasonal music fill the air, it is important to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.
Just a look around stores and neighborhoods will reveal a focus on retail, decorations and finding the ideal present. But amidst the toys, electronics and jewelry, we must seek out the most important gift of all, indeed the perfect gift. It does not come wrapped in foiled paper, it is not tied with satin bows, and it does not take second place to the next best thing that comes along. It is the greatest gift of all, the incarnation, a vulnerable babe in a humble stable who is our savior Jesus Christ.
It is chastening indeed to contemplate that our Messiah can become second to tinsel and snowflakes. This is the most important time of the year; nothing compares except Easter.
If we mindfully observe the Advent days preceding the birth of Christ, then we can create traditions in our families that involve preparing for the arrival of Jesus with prayer and reflection. It is a strong swimmer who can push against the tide of culture, but people of faith can be the force of change by engaging in loving acts of generosity.
This is especially significant as we fulfill the legacy of the Year of Mercy. Advent and Christmas are a poignant time to show the light of God to the world around us. In addition to the traditions of lighting candles on Advent wreaths and decorating Jesse Trees, families can offer their own special prayers for those who go without or make time for people who are suffering in some way. We can be as creative with our mercy as we are in decorating our trees and homes.
On Christmas, we often exchange gifts, but do any of those presents reflect the gift that we have been given? We are reminded of the Magi who presented frankincense, gold, and myrrh.
Frankincense was a perfume used in worship and denoted the divinity of Christ Jesus, gold was a gift for kings and Jesus is the King of Kings, and myrrh was used in the preparation of the dead — a sign of Jesus’ imminent suffering and death on the cross.
During this season, celebrate the birth of Christ into our world and into our hearts, and reflect on the gift of salvation that is born with Him. Let us include the Christ Child in the gift of giving, making Him prominent by reflecting our adoration in words and deed.
The only way to change the world is to change ourselves — what better time than at the birth of our Savior.
Most Rev. Robert E. Guglielmone
Bishop of the Diocese of Charleston