Long Walk - Part of Gift

(Christmas Homily)

Message: If we say, "Long walk - part of the gift" then this is the longest walk.

Merry Christmas! We don't need Donald Trump's permission to say it: Merry Christmas!

I know people find themselves in different places. Tonight I ask you to consider a reason for gratitude - personal, deep, eternal gratitude. We see the reason represented in the manger: God gives us his all!

You might ask: Why did God go to so much trouble? He made an incredible descent. Imagine if you or I were to awake and find we had become a ground worm. It would be unpleasant - to say the least. However in comparison to the maker of the universe becoming human - it would be almost nothing.

Why did God accept such humiliation? I do not know the answer, but I believe it has something to do with the nature of a gift. What makes a gift valuable often involves the thought and effort that goes into it.

The American preacher Norman Vincent Peale tells the story about a young woman working as a missionary teacher in Africa. One Christmas Eve a little boy proudly brings her a crudely wrapped gift. The teacher is surprised. This little boy is poor. What could he possibly give?

The teacher unwraps the present and within the crumpled brown paper finds an exquisite seashell. The missionary, knowing that the only place to find such shells is many rugged miles away, expresses her enthusiastic appreciation. "Dear boy," she says, "you’ve traveled so far to bring me such a wonderful present."

At first the child appears surprised by her reaction, but his eyes brighten and he smiles widely. "Oh, teacher," he says, "long walk part of gift."

Norman Vincent Peale then tells about his wife and him preparing their church for Christmas. It seems everything goes wrong, people are in sour moods. They want to throw up their hands. Silence follows, they look at each and say simultaneously, "Long walk - part of gift."

God wants to give you and me a gift - the greatest gift imaginable: his very self. He went to the trouble of creating the universe - billions of galaxies each with billions of stars. And our own planet with beautiful rivers, mountains and animals. And he has given us fellow humans in dazzling variety. Even though history shows we have not received these gifts gratefully, still God persists. He makes the long journey to become one of us - accepting, even embracing, our anguish and suffering. Why? (pause - look directly) Long walk - part of gift.

This Christmas I want to give you a gift. I can't say I walked to the ocean to bring it. Loving parishioners did go to some length to gift wrap each copy: a book called "Resisting Happiness." The subtitle says, "A true story about why we sabotage ourselves, feel overwhelmed, set aside dreams, and lack the courage to simply be ourselves...and how to start choosing happiness again."

Besides the print edition you can get this book in electronic or audio format. I have enough copies to give one per family. I only ask that you read it or give it to a family member, friend or coworker. I am convinced that if he reads the first 30 pages, he will continue and it will bring him back to the Catholic faith - or deepen it.

If you do not take a copy, I won't be offended. I know lots of people don't read books. That's OK.

There's a gift, though, that I hope you will not refuse: the one I mentioned at the beginning of the homily, the gift shown in the Nativity scene. Other gifts will fade and perish. This one alone will last. If we say, "Long walk - part of the gift" then this is the longest walk.

Like any gift the appropriate response is to say, "thank you." As Matthew Kelly says (read from his book): "Gratitude should always be our first response for the blessings in our lives. Our second response should be to live a life worthy of the blessings we have received."

Gratitude, saying "thank you" is not only the appropriate response to a gift, but it can radically transform our lives. I conclude this Christmas homily with Matthew Kelly's words on why we need gratitude:

"Without gratitude what was extraordinary yesterday becomes ordinary today. Without gratitude a sense of entitlement takes over and begins to rot our soul. Without gratitude we get old and grumpy, or even young and grumpy. Gratitude keeps us young. It anchors us to the present moment. It reminds us what matters most and what matters least, and fills us with the resolve to carry out the great mission God has entrusted to us." Amen.


Spanish Version

From the archives (Christmas homilies):

2017: Exchange of Gifts
2016: Long Walk - Part of Gift
2015: A New Beginning
2014: There is More
2013: Forgiving God
2012: Why Jesus Was Born
2011: The Gift of Freedom
2010: Let Him Come In
2009: When We Were Gone Astray
2008: The Tiny Footsteps of Jesus
2007: No More Fear and Hiding
2006: That Sacred Jest
2005: An Ivory Horn
2004: A Christmas Poem
2003: The Weakness of God
2002: The Word
2001: The Abundance of God
2000: I Am One of You Now
1999: Bigger on the Inside
1998: How to Receive a Gift
1997: Someone is Knocking at the Door
1996: The Gift We All Desire

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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