No sales pitch required

Many weeks ago, stores began their Christmas sales. They felt that they just didn’t have enough time to advertise this year.

Most of us reading this column probably aren’t all that excited about these sales. We believe that God didn’t enter history so that we could celebrate some savings. Christ had some more important “savings” in mind. God entered history to save us.

Yet, there is a plus side to all of this advertising. These sales mark the date of a history-changing moment.

After all, how many people celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord into heaven? How many celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception? Retailers ignore these celebrations, as do most people. Our churches are not packed for these feasts.

Even the stories of Santa Claus, however, have their roots in St. Nicholas, a bishop who delivered gifts to poor children in what is now Turkey. Perhaps even we who celebrate the true meaning of Christmas – God entering this world as a human being – can still miss out on some of the deeper meaning.

Allow me to share a parable. There was a man who was so holy and wise that even God asked his opinion on occasion. One day God asked the man: “I want to play a game of hide-and- seek with humanity. Where can I hide that humans will never find me?” The holy man replied: “Hide in the human heart. They’ll never find you there.”

No, Christmas is not about hide and seek. God has revealed himself as a baby, born of the Virgin Mary.

But the deeper meaning of Christmas is often more hidden. The God born once as a fully human being now wants to live in the heart of every human being. We look in the stable to celebrate that moment in history. Can we look into our own hearts and find that same God living in us?

The world may or may not believe what we say. But the world will believe what we do. Do we live in such a way as to allow the God born once in a manger to live fully in us?

To paraphrase words often attributed to St. Theresa of Kolkata: “Most of us are not called to do great things. Most of us are called to do small things with great love.” Love was the language of Jesus. Love is still our best way to convince others of the presence of God in our world. No sales needed.

Father Joseph Breighner

Father Joseph Breighner

Father Joseph Breighner is a priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and a columnist for the Catholic Review.