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Treasured Christmas Gifts

December 26, 2017
With Christmas fast approaching, and malls becoming busier with shoppers looking for the “perfect” gift to give their loved ones, the most precious gifts are not material things you can purchase. True giving comes from the heart through expressions of love. I offer these three gifts as suggestions.
Gift of Time
John 15:12 This is My command.  Love one another as I have loved you.  
How often do we wish we had more hours in the day to get everything we need or want accomplished? It’s a great time to shift priorities from ourselves to others. Giving others the precious gift of your time is a meaningful way to add joy to everyone’s lives. Time is a precious gift, and even more precious to those who need it. Pay someone an unexpected visit. Reach out and rekindle old friendships and spend time with extended family and especially the elderly.
My family has made it a tradition to make the rounds by visiting all our elderly aunts and uncles.  Not only does it lift their spirits, but ours as well. It is very rewarding to spread joy and love.  I recall years ago when a dear uncle passed away, I was so glad we had lots of fond memories to look back on.  Since no one knows when God will call us back home, I think it’s so important to spend as much time as we can with family and friends now and not regret that we let other things come first.
Christmas is such a nostalgic time which reminds us of our loved ones who have passed away.  One of the special ways I like to honour those no longer with us is to spend time baking some of their favourite foods or keeping alive some of the family rituals.  To this day, I can still smell fresh turdilli (southern Italian deep fried sweets) that my nonno would make at this time of the year.  Passing along this tradition to my daughter and spending quality family time baking these treats makes me feel the presence of loved ones who are no longer with us.
Gift of Charity
Isaiah 58:10  And if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday.
Being charitable can take on many faces such as giving money, food, clothes, packing boxes or containers, helping to serve meals or delivering food baskets to the needy.
My family and I recently had the opportunity to deliver food baskets to local families.  The experience was so humbling. First to see how little some people have in comparison to others.   But even more so to see the smiles of the families receiving the baskets and children so excited by our arrival. It was especially uplifting to be there to witness those on the receiving end of these charitable gifts.  It really brought to life Pope Francis' quote: "In the poor and outcast we see Christ's face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ."
Gift of Peace
James 5:17 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. 
God calls us to love one another. Many relationships are strained and broken because of the inability to apologize due to pride or stubbornness. Efforts to make peace and heal past hurts are a wonderful gift, regardless of the amount time that has gone by. Apologies can rectify strained or broken relationships and are not a sign of weakness.  It takes courage to do so.  Taking this initiative shows that you care about the relationship.
Two of my uncles had a falling out over 40 years ago and did not speak to one another. Over the years, the bitterness got worse. They lived next door to each other, which made the situation not only unbearable for them, but for the rest of our common relatives.  When we visited each of their households at Christmas, we would inevitably hear some bitterness and rehashing of old wounds.  How sad to think that their families weren’t part of each others’ lives.  Even the death of one of my uncles didn’t end the feud. So much pain and hurt could have been avoided if someone had made the first move and extended an olive branch.
Giving the gifts of time, charity and peace will let God’s love within us shine for others.
Roman 12: 9-13 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord?s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
This Christmas, let us all give the gift of love to each other.