By Susan Ciancio
Though Christmas has come and gone all too quickly, it’s likely that many of us are still enjoying the gifts we received or that we’re watching the people we love enjoy their gifts. Before Christmas, we spent hours searching for the perfect Christmas gifts for the people in our lives—our kids, our spouses, our parents, our friends. We took time to ascertain what they wanted or what they would like based on our knowledge of them. We may even have listened throughout the year and made notes to ourselves when they pointed out something they liked.
Proper gift giving takes thought, preparation, attention, and love. And we feel that love when someone gives us the perfect give—one that makes us feel cherished, listened to, and important.
Tomorrow we celebrate Epiphany—the day the three Wise Men arrived and presented Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
These items were not just random gifts. Each had a special meaning. The gold signified Jesus’ kingship. The frankincense signified the fact that Christ was both God and man. And the myrrh foreshadowed His death, as it was an oil used to embalm dead bodies.
On Epiphany, the Wise Men were blessed to lay eyes on the greatest gift mankind has ever been given. Though we do not yet get to see Christ in person, our gifts to Him are no less important—and we should put thought, preparation, attention, and love into each one.
So, as we think about the gifts the Wise Men offered, let us contemplate the gifts in our lives—the ones we offer Christ and the ones we give to others in His name. And let us remember to give thanks for the gifts He has given to us.
What do we offer Christ?
The Bible teaches us that we should offer God our “first fruits.” What does that mean? It means that we give God the best of what we have and the best of who we are.
It means we set aside time for Him each day rather than busily going through our days and giving Him just two minutes before we collapse exhausted in bed at night. We give Him our time by reading or listening to the Bible. We expand our knowledge about our faith, and we do the same for our kids. We go to Mass joyfully and pay attention to His word. In short, we spend time throughout our days talking to God, giving Him the gift of our time, of our attention, and our adoration.
Just as in any relationship, if we only devote one hour a week to it, we cannot expect it to grow or flourish. Think about it this way: If your spouse or your kids told you they wanted just one hour a week with you, how would you feel?
If we only talk to God at Mass, we fail to enhance our relationship with Him. We fail to show Him our love and adoration. And we lose precious time that could be spent growing closer to Him.
Our gifts to others glorify God
When we allow God’s light to shine through us, we give an immense gift to others. We give them a glimpse of His love through our actions. So, as we go about our daily lives, let us be that light to others.
How do we do that? We do that in many ways—large and small. It could come through a smile to a stranger, in a phone call to a friend you’ve been meaning to chat with, in a meal taken to an elderly neighbor, in a night off for a single or overwhelmed parent by babysitting their kids, in a warm meal for the homeless man on the corner, or in a pro-life meme on social media. Or maybe it’s something on a grander scale, like taking part in a charity that fixes homes for the poor, making meals for the parents of sick kids in a hospital, or volunteering your time in a homeless shelter or a pro-life pregnancy center.
These gifts of kindness remind others that there is good in this world. Even if they don’t directly think about God, you are allowing His goodness to fill their hearts. And when that door is opened, God’s mercy and love will do the rest.
Give thanks for our gifts
When I was little, I would lie in bed at night and thank God for all the little things—and big things—I could think of. I wanted to show Him that I was thankful for everything He had given me and for helping me hone the talents I had. I had a list I would normally go through—all my physical abilities, my family, my friends, my house, etc. I try to do the same now.
I urge you to try this every day. I think you will be amazed at how your list grows the more you think about it!
Start by thanking God for even the smallest things—like a beautiful sunset that made you smile, an extra hug from a child, a good conversation when you felt down, someone else unloading the dishwasher—and then add in the big things—kids, family, job, house, and so on.
Then, once you thank God for the good things, thank Him for the difficult things too—and for His help in getting you through them.
When we take the time to really reflect upon all we have, we begin to truly understand God’s love for us.
So as we approach Epiphany—a word that literally means the “moment in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way”—and you spend time really reflecting on God’s love, His generosity, and His magnificence, you will begin to see His gifts and His love in a new or clear way, and you will become awash in His mercy and kindness.