Exchange of Gifts

(December 25, 2017)

Bottom line: This year we are exploring the meaning of prayer - which in reality is an exchange of gifts. God will go to extremes to get our attention.

Merry Christmas! Christmas is about an exchange of gifts. God takes on our humanity so we can take part in his divinity.

A lady named Diane Rayner tells a story that illustrates the exchange of gifts. Of all places it happened in Redmond, Washington, but years before Bill Gates and Microsoft arrived.

Diane with her three children had moved into a trailer home in the forested area of Redmond. The youngest, Marty, who was 8, had the quaint habit of tilting his head like a puppy. The reason was Marty was deaf in his left ear.

Marty and his friend Kenny had become inseparable: Playing in the horse pasture with its winding stream, they caught frogs and snakes and searched for hidden treasure like arrowheads.

As summer turned to a wet Puget Sound winter Diane noticed Marty putting aside his small allowance. Shortly before Christmas he came home triumphantly holding something in his hand. "It's for Kenny," he beamed. "Want to see it?" When he opened his hand Diane recognized a pocket compass, perfect for exploring.

"It's a lovely gift!" she said. Then a disturbing thought came over her. She told him that Kenny's mom would not allow it. They were desperately poor and she would not permit her son to receive a gift they could not return in kind.

Crestfallen Marty began to brood. The next day he said to his mom, "But what if it is a secret? They never found out who gave it?" Reluctantly she agreed.

That Christmas Eve - with typical Western Washington rain - Marty carefully walked through the pasture to Kenny's ramshackle home. Placing the wrapped compass on the porch, he rang the bell and dashed across the yard. Suddenly he ran into an electric fence. The shock sent him reeling. He lay stunned on the muddy ground, gasping for breath. Confused, frightened he made the grueling trip home.

When his mom saw him covered with mud, a red mark on his cheek, she asked what happened. "I forgot about the fence," he said, "and it knocked me down." Diane helped Marty out of his wet clothes and made him some hot cocoa.

Diane spent the night unhappy and puzzled. "It seemed such a cruel thing to happen to a little boy," she writes, "doing what the Lord wants us all to do, giving to others and giving in secret at that."

On Christmas morning the rain stopped and the sun shone. Kenny came to show Marty his good fortune. As they talked about plans for future exploring, it was plain Kenny did not suspect Marty at all.

Then Diane noticed Marty was not tilting his head. When classes resumed the school nurse confirmed what Diane already knew. "Marty now has complete hearing in both ears."

"It remains a mystery," she says. The doctors suspect, of course, that the shock from the electric fence was somehow responsible. "Perhaps," says Diane, "whatever the reason I remain thankful to God for the good exchange of gifts that was made that night." (Pause, deep breath)

This year we are exploring the meaning of prayer - which in reality is an exchange of gifts. An early Christian writer says, "Prayer is the encounter of God's thirst for us with our thirst for him." God will go to extremes to get our attention, so we will open our hearts, open our ears. We see the extreme at Christmas. As John says, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." Amen.


Spanish Version

From the archives (Christmas homilies):

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

Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)

Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New Episodes*

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Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron

Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)

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