When I was a kid, I desperately wanted my dad to buy me a toy gun that was popular in Nigeria, back then for Christmas. My father sat me down and asked me, “Do you know why we give each other gifts at Christmas?” I said, Because God gave us Jesus at the first Christmas.” He was so pleased. And then, he asked me again, “Why did God do that?” I answered, “Because he loves us.” He said, “You are right again, my son. Good for you!” You understand the meaning of Christmas very well. Now if I don’t have enough money to buy you this toy gun you are asking for, you still know that I love you? At this point I thought to myself, “if I agree with him, that means he has won and may not buy the gun again. Could I lie to make him buy it?” But I decided to tell him the truth and said, “yes dad, I know you love me even if you don’t buy the toy gun.” The long and short of the story is that I ended up having my most wanted Christmas gift. But I got something better than that- the lesson about love. Meanwhile, two months after Christmas, I didn’t even know where the toy gun was, but the less about love is still with me up till today. It is very much alive in my life.
I have just been thinking about the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Gospel reading today. After the visit of the Angel, who brought the message of God to her, her next step is something very remarkable and instructive. Just pay attention to what she did. When she received the gift from God, she did not lock up herself inside the room, slumped in her easy chair pondering on the next click on TV remote or phone. No! She rather made a journey across room, across cultures, across generations, across the globe physically, electronically or prayerfully. She thought to herself, “Joy cannot be fulfilled living within myself, but only when I journey and bring the love and joy of the Lord to other people.” This was why she traveled to Elizabeth, her cousin, across town, entered her home and stood in her reality. She was present to her. And that is why being present to others is the real Christmas present this season. She didn’t isolate herself. She didn’t keep God’s revelation a secret. She didn’t play Lone Ranger and attempted to go it alone. Instead, she sought out a fellow-traveler.
As we give Christmas present this season, may we be inspired by Our Lady to always bear in mind that the most important point is love- that love is the gift of yourself. We have to be inspired by an act modeled by Mary. She went about greeting people and not shunning people. That is what we are called to do this season. So many people give boxes of gift at Christmas and yet spread hate and harbor bitterness in their hearts.
When we are present to people, they will experience the Real Presence. And we, too. When Mary visited Elizabeth and greeted her, the child in her womb was jumping up and rejoicing. Elizabeth, too could not contain the joy of the Lord and said, “who am I that the mother of my Savior came to visit me.” She blessed Mary. And Mary got her prophetic voice and was able to sing the great Magnificat at the end of the Gospel of today. Remember, no Christmas without community. And when there is community, joys and blessings are shared. People will then sing songs of praise to God.
To love is to get involved.