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Don't forget the reason for the season

December 16, 2009 - I have to admit that thinking about others wasn't always the first thing on my mind when I was a boy.

Now that I look back on it, that fact was probably never more glaring than on Christmas day, after there were no more presents left under the tree. In a certain sense it was the best of times (or minutes) and the worst of times.

I could go from wild excitement to sheer boredom in the time it takes for good ol' St. Nick to wink that eye. I thought: "Could there be anything more barren than a Christmas tree without gifts underneath?" I wanted to get rid of that empty feeling, but I wasn't sure that getting more presents was the answer.

The gifts we exchange are good and symbolic of our love for one another, but they have even more value when we begin to understand why we're exchanging gifts in the first place.

Everyone spends time doing the necessary shopping, but the more it becomes obligatory, the more we can lose focus on the real meaning of Christmas. We give each other gifts because we're celebrating a birthday.

One of the unfortunate realities of society today is that we are celebrating a birthday, but the birthday boy is often being overlooked. Quite simply we wouldn't be celebrating anything if Christ had not been born two thousand years ago.

His birth is a real sign that human life is so precious that God himself wanted to share in it. The simplicity of the setting of his birth helps us to see that the most important gifts we have are people, not things.

It's no secret that, materially speaking, some have more and some have less. I believe that if we make the exchange of presents the most important part of Christmas, we'll be in for a season without lasting cheer.

Christmas is supposed to a time when everyone experiences love, joy, and happiness. However some people suffer through Christmas in an emptiness that all the presents in the world could never fill.

Yet there is one present, or rather one presence that can fill the void: the presence of the Christ child. Focusing too narrowly on the presents that are under the tree may lead us to lose sight of the real Present who has been there all along.

One of the great joys of Christmas is the belief that there are no more barriers separating us from God. He has become a defenseless Baby who needs our warmth and attention.

In his humility he draws us closer and soon enough we discover that we are the ones being warmed by the Light of the world. The snow will melt, the carols will fade, but the joy of living a Christmas with Christ at the center will be a lasting gift for all.

Fr. Daniel Pajerski, LC, is Formation Director for Everest Academy.

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