During Christmastime we give presents to different people and others give presents to us. Gift-giving goes, at least, all the way back to the story of the Wise Men going to Bethlehem, falling down on their knees, and offering the best gifts they could afford to the Baby King.
But we are reminded each year that Christmas is not just about giving presents. It is more about “being present,” sharing ourselves with warmth, affection, and sincerity. The quality of our personal “presence” is everything. In practice, however, gift-giving may sometimes be aimed more at keeping on someone’s good side or keeping the peace than being really “present.”
The enduring lesson of the Wise Men is that they were completely single-minded and sincere in their gift-giving. Their gifts were expressions of their respect, reverence, gratitude, and love for the Child. Their gifts were given with no strings attached, no conditions, and no mixed motives. Despite the limits and flaws in our own gift-giving, it is important to both keep the practice alive and to make it more and more genuine.
In the end, the story of the visit to Bethlehem by the Wise Men is a story of giving and receiving. It speaks of how gifts express love between persons, and of how gifts given with love bind people together. But it is not simply about the giving of things, but the giving of persons, the sharing of selves.
In celebrating the end of the Christmas season, we are celebrating the greatest proof of goodness there has ever been: of God’s deeply personal love for us. For it was out of love that the Father gave us the Son, and gave Him to be our Light, our Savior, our King, and our Joy. His “present” to us is nothing less than the divine “presence” in our lives.
For an account of the life of St. André Bessett (the Holy Cross Saint whom we celebrate today): https://www.up.edu/holycross/history/andre-bessette.html