December 7 , 2007

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

Timeless gifts worth sharing

I could not help but feel a sense of pride when I overheard my 10-year-old daughter say, as my other children were talking about what they want for Christmas, “How about if we don’t give presents to each other this year? It is Jesus’ birthday, not ours!”

You can imagine the blank stares that she received from her brother and sisters.

For Mary Claire’s own safety, and to teach a lesson, I decided to intervene. I complimented her on her thoughtfulness and for realizing the real reason for the celebration of Christmas, but went on to explain that as we give gifts to each other, we are indeed giving gifts to Jesus.

To the rest of my children’s relief, I explained that, since Jesus lives in us in the form of the Holy Spirit, we are keeping alive the tradition of giving gifts like the first visitors of Jesus at the place of his birth.

A very interesting discussion ensued. My children began to discuss what kind of gifts would make Jesus happy. They began to think a bit more deeply about what they wanted to both give and receive as gifts.

I don’t know about you, but I always struggle as to what to give to others in my life that already have so much. Our ­conversation got me thinking about gifts with true meaning.

As I considered the most memorable “gifts” in my own life, I did not think about wrapped presents under the Christmas tree. I began to think about time spent with the most important people in my life— especially during the most difficult struggles that I have faced.

As Catholics, we have become very familiar with the terms time, talent and treasure as they relate to the gifts given to us by God. I wonder if that gift of time might be just what many people might need this year.

I hear people constantly talk about their busy lives and the lack of time that they have after their responsibilities are taken care of. And I am just as guilty as anyone for giving my “leftover” time. But, doesn’t God ask us to give of our “first fruits”?

What might be different in your life and in the lives of those around us if we considered making time to be fully and completely present to the people around us? What if we viewed serving our friends with our full presence with serving Jesus?

It is easy to think of the poor as those who do not have their material needs met, but we are all at times poor in spirit. Who are the people in and around your life that might need your time and attention more than anything else that you can give them at this time of year?

In addition to the people currently in our lives, there are so many people—the lost and forsaken, the forgotten and the neglected—who need our time.

No matter our own wealth or lack thereof, we all have 24 hours in a day. And we all have choices about how we give that time to Jesus in those around and among us.

(David Siler is executive director of the Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at †

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