they’ll get this year is life

Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with saying “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” and I firmly believe it to be true. But there are times when the missing hurts beyond measure. For many, this time of year is a special time for family and friends, joy and laughter, happy times and fond memories, but for others, it conjures a sense of loss and loneliness, a profound feeling of impending emptiness and darkness. Often the memory of Christmas lies on a delicate balance, at a tipping point between joy and sadness, and a moment before or after can change the remembrance of it.

The happiest Christmas I can recall was twenty-nine years ago, in 1984. It was the first time in over ten years that all ten of my siblings and their families were gathered together with my parents. It was a wonderfully long and loving time. We retold stories of our growing up and learned new things about one another, for with eleven spread across twenty-two years there were lots that we did not know of one another. Moments later, on January 16th, 1985, our joy was destroyed by the loss of our parents and Christmas could and would never be the same.

But Christmas isn’t really about us, is it? Christmas isn’t about you or me. Christmas is about Christ. In this day of “it’s all about me” it is far too easy to forget that Christmas means that my parents and all those who are no longer with us have a better place to spend the holidays with the greatest host of all.

We tend to ignore the fact that there are those less fortunate, those for whom a warm home, a good meal or two, and presents under the tree are mere fantasies to be dreamed of rather than lived. A line from the Christmas song, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” written in 1984 by Bob Geldorf and Midge Ure to help raise money for those starving in Ethiopia should make us pause. The line is “The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life” and it says it all. The greatest gift we have is life, but we generally take it for granted until it is gone.

Isaiah tells us “Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.” Our greatest gift is the life that God has given to us, and it is the one gift that we must share with others. We must celebrate life, all life, with one another all year long, but especially at Christmas.

Father John Kavanaugh, S. J. writes “We humans will always be in Advent….For the world and all its life is only Advent. It is a creation unfinished, a groaning for another wondrous coming, a second birth. Our final happiness and healing, rich or poor, will not be quarried here. We who believe that heaven once came down to earth also believe that every grace of the earth will be lifted to undying life by our God made flesh.”

Let us remind ourselves that we are in waiting, waiting for Christmas yet to come. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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