Adoration of the Shepherds Gerard van Honthorst

Adoration of the Shepherds
Gerard van Honthorst

Merry Christmas!

I love holidays. I love family. The two just seem to go together. Some holidays are joyful gatherings, some less so. We are all too human, as the saying goes. But I say give me holidays and family any day; warts and all! Especially give me Christmas, one of the two greatest of all holiday celebrations, if you ask me!

Did I mention that I also love presents? One thing I know as I grow older and older… material gifts are less important to me now. If you had asked me 30 years ago about my favorite Christmas presents, the answer would have been far different from the answer I would give if you asked me today. What is really important is the presence of God, family and friends.

In fact, the greatest of all gifts is God’s presence to us. For many people, much of our lives are spent pursuing created things when we had the Creator all along. And that is the truth the father tries to teach the older son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

God the Father wants us to know that we always have Him.

After the Fall, we had forgotten that and in forgetting, we became less authentic – less true to who we were made to be. So when the time was right and all had been fulfilled, our God entered creation and became man at the moment of the Annunciation. And nine months later, God’s mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, gave birth to a son – the God-man Jesus. This gift of the Divine Self to mankind brings great joy and peace.

In the Gospel for Mass at midnight, we hear of the encounter of the shepherds with an angel of God and the heavenly host, “The angel said to them,’ Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests’” (Luke 2:10-14).

We have all heard this many times. Unfortunately, some things become so familiar that we lose sight of their significance. But let’s not lose the joy and peace that our King brings. Let us never forget the priceless gift of Himself that God gave to each of us on that first Christmas nearly 2,000 years ago. This is the whole and entire reason we celebrate Christmas.

As you exchange gifts this Christmas morning and season, remember the greatest gift of all is the gift of self to another… both the giving and the receiving.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King!

Into the deep…

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Into the Deep by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is a regular feature of the The Integrated Catholic Life™ and usually appears on Sundays.

Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is the Editor in chief and co-founder of the The Integrated Catholic Life™. A Catholic Deacon of the Roman Rite for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Deacon Bickerstaff is assigned to St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church where he is the Director of Adult Education and Evangelization. He is a co-founder of the successful annual Atlanta Catholic Business Conference; the Chaplain of the Atlanta Chapter of the Woodstock Theological Center’s Business Conference; and Chaplains to the St. Peter Chanel Business Association and co-founder of the Marriages Are Covenants Ministry, both of which serve as models for similar parish-based ministries.

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