December 20, 2019

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Christmas joy is a foretaste of the happiness of heaven

Sean GallagherI have many vivid memories of the excitement I experienced as a child on Christmas morning when I unwrapped the presents my parents had given me.

The discovery was joyous. Then there was the happy time I spent exploring what the gifts offered and playing with them in the carefree days of Christmas break.

As an adult, I don’t usually experience the same excitement on Christmas morning that I did as a child.

That’s in part because I don’t really yearn for special gifts like I did then. Thankfully, I’m pretty much oblivious to the marketers who want to persuade adults to get the latest digital device, a big new TV or a new fashion trend.

More importantly, though, I tend to focus more at Christmas on what my family around me is experiencing.

Seeing my boys’ excitement at opening their gifts renews my memories of the same when I was a child.

When I was their age, I wasn’t concerned about the commercialization of Christmas and how it can distract us from the spiritual meaning and good news of the feast of our Lord’s birth in Bethlehem.

Thankfully, my parents instilled the faith in me so that it is at the heart of my life as an adult.

My wife Cindy and I are trying to do that now for our sons. One way we do it at Christmas is by limiting the gifts we give to them. We’ve applied the advice of a friend and give the boys three gifts each (in addition to what they receive in their stockings): something they want; something they need; something to read.

We’ve noticed after doing this for some years that the boys don’t get fixated on a long list of gifts they want to see under the Christmas tree. They certainly have gift ideas in mind, but they tend not to go overboard.

Hopefully, we’ll create space in them where a personal appreciation of the gift of Christ at Christmas can grow in their hearts.

As an adult, I’ve come to learn that desiring material things at Christmas is ultimately rooted in the yearning God placed in our souls for the gift of eternal life that he offers to all of us.

It’s easy in our culture, though, to allow the desire for material things to push the spiritual foundation of our lives to the back of our hearts and minds.

That’s a main reason why Cindy and I try to keep the material focus in Christmas within limits in our home. In setting them, we’re not being Grinches. Indeed, we hope the boys experience real joy in what they receive. Thankfully, we’ve seen that in them over the years.

It is our hope that they can keep that youthful joy at Christmas as they grow into adulthood.

I’m convinced that part of what our Lord meant when he said that “whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it” is that we are to be open to the childlike joy of the gift of himself to us (Mk 10:15).

I imagine that the joy children experience in unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning can be a small taste of the infinite happiness we’ll know and show forth when, God willing, we see our Lord face to face when we pass from this life to the next, or at his glorious return if we’re alive when that blessed day dawns.

So, let us who are parents, with the help of God’s grace, renew in ourselves the joy we see in our children at Christmas and help them keep that joy as they grow.

(Sean Gallagher is a reporter for The Criterion)

Local site Links: