(A Christmas Gift for the La Salle Academy educational community)
A three year old is found by her Dad placing a box under the Christmas tree. It is decorated with gold wrapping paper. Money is tight and the man discovers anger erupting within him as he suspects that his daughter has wasted expensive paper; and he allows his anger toward the child to show.
The next morning, however, the little girl brings the gold wrapped box to her Dad and says, ‘This is for you, Daddy.’
He is embarrassed and mollified by his overreaction the previous night, but his anger flares again when he finds that the box is empty. He yells at her, ‘Don’t you know that when you give someone a present, there’s supposed to be something inside it?’
The little girl looks up at him with tears in her eyes and says, ‘Oh, Daddy, the box is not empty. I blew kisses into the box. They are all for you, Daddy.’
The father is crushed. He puts his arms around his little girl, and he begs for her forgiveness.
It is said that the man keeps that gold wrapped box by his bed for years, and whenever he is discouraged, he takes out a kiss and remembers the love of the child who had placed it in the gold wrapped box.
We have eyes to see, but do not see, until a child explains the simplicity of love to us. Christmas is our receiving a gift that many misunderstand and can sometimes make us angry. Concerns and anxieties can cloud our vision and cause us to place security – be it personal or financial – above the beautifully wrapped gift being offered to us.
The wastefulness, inefficiency and extravagance of God’s gift of mercy can offend and infuriate us. We can understand mercy as something given to people who we feel are deserving of mercy. We cannot understand – and often become angry – when we hear that God’s gift of mercy is also offered to people who we feel are undeserving. This way of seeing only has the possibility of changing when we glimpse that we too are undeserving – like the Dad in our opening story – and mercy is still offered to us too.
Then, we are caught-up short, and we are momentarily freed from the illusion that we are separate and different from other people, and briefly discover that we can no longer judge – ourselves or others. Like the man in our opening story, when he hears his daughter’s explanation, we – for a time – have the opportunity to stand in awe and embrace with tearful recognition that mercy is offered not to the deserving but to the undeserving!
We can – and often do – continue to resist this all-embracing knowing that draws us into union with God and all people. We can also – and sometimes at the same time – experience with surprise that we are open to be less judgmental, less driven by fear, and more secure in our insecurity. This is the joy that Christmas brings to us: an invisible kiss that reminds us that God creates us in and for union… a kiss that lasts forever.
Used with the permission of Reverend Timothy Lemlin (in gratitude)