(Prayer offered on the Public Address system on Friday 13 December 2013)
Let us remember that we are in God’s holy presence.
One summer a number of years ago I read the wonderful trilogy written by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. In that mesmerizing tale we are introduced to a delightful group of little creatures called hobbits. These easy-living, gentle people who inhabited Middle Earth can teach us much about gift-giving at Christmas time.
Among the customs of these hobbits was to give new gifts only to new friends. Old friends were given old gifts such as family heirlooms. The older the friendship, the more ancient the gift. What happened naturally was a sort of perpetual gift exchange. Prized possessions, rare and beautiful things, simply flowed back and forth among them. This custom of giving away a gift that you yourself had once received might strike us as being a bit impolite, even cheap. But if that gift is a symbol of love, should not love be shared—passed around—given away, only to be returned?
Some of my most prized possessions are gifts given first to another and then passed on to me—what is now a well-worn, almost fur-less finger puppet was given to my father as a child by his parents, my grandparents, and in turn given by my father to me as a child—and soon it will go to my 2 year old grand nephew; a simple wooden music box, a wedding gift to my grandparents that they gave to me because as a child I used to love to listen to the music (Tales from the Vienna Woods), a music box which I passed onto my niece when she was married. Both of these items were treasures of my childhood and remain treasures, even more so that they now or will soon belong to those whom I love deeply.
Just because a gift is old, well-worn, and perhaps out of style does not take away from its symbolic value: perhaps it adds to it! For the longer we have a valued possession, the more affection we will have had to invest in it and the more of our loving energy it will have absorbed. Our friends, the hobbits, remind us that all gifts are really symbolic. They are magic reminders that we ourselves are the real gifts and that, when we offer another a gift, we are really offering ourselves, our love, our deep affection. This central and sacred concept, that gifts are intended to be signs, is often forgotten in the blizzard of Christmas advertising. We become more concerned about the size, shape and price tag than with the meaning invested in the gift.
The central gift of Christmas is the gift of God—a Father who gives to all his sons and daughters the special gift of Himself, a poor little baby born in a stable, displaced and homeless. Not the stuff of Christmas advertising; not glitzy; not the number one sought after gift of the year. No! A gift, however, of immeasurable worth—a sign of life, a symbol of hope, a giving of love. And, if we were to be true to the tradition of the hobbits, once we have received this priceless gift from God, of God, a gift of God’s love for me, for you, we would give it away to another. God’s love is a precious gift, but not to be hoarded, rather to be given away—and miraculously to be returned to us over and over again in a perpetual giving and receiving of love. And you know what? There would never be need to exchange this gift, because the color is not right or because it does not fit—love is always the right color and love always fits.
So, what do you really treasure? Would you be willing to give it to a friend as a sign of your love? Would you be willing to give of your love, of yourself—to those lacking love and needing a warm smile today, to those families adopted by our homerooms and lacking what we take for granted, to an elderly relative or neighbor who doesn’t need a gift but rather a visit? Maybe, just maybe, if we, you and I, give of our most prized possession, ourselves, this Christmas, then we will find, maybe not under the Christmas tree, but we will find somewhere God returning that love to us in ways that we can never imagine. Maybe our friends the hobbits can teach us an important lesson about life and about love!!
Let us pray: Loving Father, you have given us the gift of your Son. Jesus emptied himself, dying for us, giving us totally of himself. Give us the grace and the courage to give selflessly—not counting the cost, freely giving to others ourselves and our love. Amen.
Saint John Baptist de La Salle…pray for us.
Live, Jesus, in our hearts…forever.
Reflection for the Afternoon
This morning’s prayer reminded us of the hobbit practice of the perpetual gift exchange and of a gift being symbolic of ourselves.
What do your really treasure? Would you be willing to give that away to a friend as a sign of your love? What are the gifts you have given and received this day?
Saint John Baptist de La Salle…pray for us.
Live, Jesus, in our hearts…forever
Brother Frederick Mueller, FSC