By Father Joseph Breighner
It was the late 1940s. A family that had no money was about to have no Christmas. They lived in a small, rented apartment, part of a single house.
About 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve, there was a knock at the door. When the mother opened it, there was a man standing there, with a Christmas tree. He asked the lady if she wanted to buy a Christmas tree. Apparently in those days it was not unusual to go house to house selling trees. The mother responded that the family had no money.
The man asked her: “How much money do you have?”
The mother replied: “I only have a quarter.”
The man replied: “That’s enough,” and handed her the tree.
That family was my family. I was only a small child at the time and have no memory of the event. But my big sister, Helen, who died this past May, told me the story. I will be forever grateful for it, and for that man.
Helen said that it was the most beautiful tree we had ever had. I pray that the man is enjoying a far more beautiful sight in the kingdom of heaven.
We give gifts for Christmas, not just because the Magi brought gifts to Jesus, but because Christmas celebrates the ultimate gift of God giving himself. Christmas is not just about a moment when God entered human history, but about God sharing with us his own life.
There’s a little prayer that the priest says at the offertory of each Mass. As the priest pours a drop of water into the wine, he prays: “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”
You and I give special gifts to each other to remind ourselves of the most special gift ever given – the gift of divinity, the gift of sharing the very life of God.
At the beginning, Adam and Eve were at one with God. They shared his very life. They would never know death. And, yet, the voice of the serpent, the voice of the devil, tempted them to doubt both God, and their own sharing in God’s life. Redemption is allowing God to save us, to restore our oneness with God. The lie is that we are separate from the life of God. Christmas reminds us that we are one with God.
Put simply, sin is forgetting who we are, and then acting in ways that deny our divinity. Redemption is being reminded of who we really are, and acting in ways that reflect the life and the love of God.
Many years ago a man gave a Christmas tree to a poor family. In a popular sense, he acted like Santa Claus, bringing Christmas to a poor family on Christmas Eve.
In a real sense, he acted like God. When we know who we are, we know how to act. When we actually know that the divinity of God courses through our arteries and veins and our whole being, then we have a peace the world cannot give, and a joy that no one can take from us.
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