This isn’t an ordinary Christmas.
In many places, officials are trying to steal Christmas from those who wish to celebrate it in churches. Families are discouraged from holding get-togethers in the home. Thus, we are left to observe this Christmas in our hearts, where no force can enter, but we still feel the silent desolation of muffled joy. This COVID Christmas has an underground church feeling for those who are restricted from worship.
Thus, gift suggestions for this Christmas can’t be ordinary. They must reflect our upside-down times. We no longer ask what do you get someone who has everything, but what do you get for those who cannot use what they have. They cannot go anywhere far and can socialize only at a distance. All past assumptions of self-satisfaction and gratification that used to determine such choices are now woefully inadequate.
Gifts to Encourage All Who Fight the Good Fight
Just as the Christ Child broke with what was ordinary in His time by being born in a manger, so also this Christmas defies our sense of normality by taking us out of our complacency. It pits us against overwhelming forces that threaten our culture and Faith.
Thus, the gifts that I would like to suggest are not oriented toward delight, though delightful they should be. Let them rather be things that encourage and strengthen all those who fight the good fight. They should buttress our suppressed instincts of sociability wounded by quarantines and social unrest. Such imaginative gifts should help us stand out from the now-masked anonymous masses that ominously appear everywhere.
There are three classes of gifts that I would recommend. These categories would enhance our dignity, expand our notions of the possible and increase our identity as Christians.
Enhancing Human Dignity
My first suggestion is to give something that will reestablish norms that enhance our human dignity. I believe that our abrupt exit from the public square has taken its toll upon us. We are exiled from all the formal spaces that encouraged us to show our best side.
Thus, people were thrust into situations where all is casual, shabby and effortless. Virtual relationships and shopping has replaced personal contact. Inside our involuntary cloisters, we have forgotten that social interaction that is so important to our lives. We need a category of gifts that is aimed at restoring lost dignity and giving life meaning.
Let our gifts be those that will increase self-esteem and encourage an atmosphere of social interaction and affection even inside the limits of our isolation. Whether it be a simple piece of elegant clothing, a set of tableware or some decorative object, we need to create a climate that will lift up our hearts. Such gifts convey a desire to show our best side and help us stand out from all that is vulgar and unimaginative that can drag us down.
Expand the Notion of the Possible
The present crisis has led to an implosion in people’s lives. We are turned inward and thus need to be challenged to expand our horizons. A sense of helplessness can afflict us in the face of the overwhelming forces at play in the present crisis.
Thus, I would suggest gifts that will help us burst out of the vicious circle of despondent thoughts. We need to expand the horizons of what is possible even in our limited and isolated circumstances.
For this reason, I would recommend books as gifts that tell amazing stories of change and heroic deeds. Books on the lives of saints, heroes and converted sinners will encourage us to probe the realm of the possible. We must realize that all things are possible when God is involved. Tales of interior change and courage are outside of the reach of intrusive officials and social justice warriors.
Such stories will not only narrate how our individual lives might change but also make apparent the action of God’s grace in souls. By this divine action, we become capable of acts beyond our human nature as we participate in the Divine life of God.
I would recommend classic stories that have inspired generations. The Confessions of Saint Augustine never grows old. The lives of saints like Saint Louis IX, Saint Joan of Arc or Saint Ignatius of Loyola are shining examples for us. We might also explore inspiring conversion stories like J. K. Huysmans’s En Route. The Story of a Soul by Saint Therese of Infant Jesus outlines her “little way” for souls seeking to break out of the prosaic existence of everyday life.
Affirming Our Christian Identity
There is a third category of gifts to explore. I am afflicted by the utter pagan response to the present crisis. We look only to the insufficient natural means of dealing with crises offered by our sinful and neo-pagan world. Thus, any proposals will always fall short.
Now more than ever, we need to affirm our Christian identity. We need to appear in the public square unafraid to display our Faith. Let it be known that our confidence lies in God, not postmodernity. Therefore, let our gifts be symbols of our Faith that we can display, wear, or use to decorate as a reminder of who we are and what Christmas represents.
Thus, gifts of religious symbols, pictures and objects of devotion will serve to remind us where our priorities should be this Christmas. Crosses, medals, rosaries or lapel pins can proclaim our identity to a world that rejects Christ. It helps to have these symbols before our eyes as we cope with new challenges.
An Invitation to Be Extraordinary
These are my gift suggestions for the person who has every material thing now made useless by circumstances. It is an invitation to stop and ponder why we are here. Such gifts will help us to confide in the Christ Child who chose to be born amid adversity.
This isn’t an ordinary Christmas, but it calls us to be extraordinary.
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