Most of us probably cannot even think of Christmas without permitting our hearts to return to our own childhood Christmases from the past. We recall the excitement and the family traditions that accompanied this festive holiday. We bring those memories into our adult world and they offer us hope and comfort. However, today our challenge is to make Christmas a genuine adult feast. We do so most effectively by giving others reasons to praise God. We become adults at Christmas when the joy of giving overpowers the joy of receiving.

The heart of the Christmas event is the profound fact that God has given us His Own Son. The Father sets the stage for the deepest significance of Christmas by handing over the One that He loves perfectly and eternally – His own Son. We receive a Gift that should both delight and transform us. As children eagerly open the presents that they had longed to receive, their eyes literally dance with delight. Our hearts should show such joy when we reflect on the truth that God has become one with us – Divinity has taken humanity upon itself.

Trying to find the perfect gift can overwhelm us at this time of year. The Father has already provided “the perfect” gift for each one of us in His Son. “The Perfect Gift” is a theme here in the Archdiocese of Washington that captures in a few words the mystery of Christmas. For the past decade this local Church has focused on the deepest meaning of Christmas with that short phrase. We all usually struggle to find a gift that will delight a loved one. The phrase: “what do you get a person who has everything” is often at the heart of this personal dilemma. But the real challenge has already been satisfied by the Father who has given everything to a people who needed salvation by giving us His Son. The great mystery of Christmas is only properly grasped when we realize that the ultimate gift is always the gift of self. We give our time, our energy, our creativity, our attention to those that we love, and such gifts are far more important than anything that we might be able to buy in a store or online.

From the time of the Magi, gift giving has been associated with the Birth of Christ. These three representatives of the human family presented the Christ Child with symbolic offerings. But their most important gift was the journey that they made to find Him.

At the start of Advent, the Blessed Mother has several important feasts that tell us a great deal about her love. She is honored as the Immaculate One whose entire existence was sinless. Pope Francis has called us to honor her as Our Lady of Loreto as a tribute to the home that tradition says was the dwelling place of the Holy Family in Nazareth. Our Mexican sisters and brothers share with the entire Church the wondrous feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe as her appearance at Tepeyac Hill became the wondrous source of the conversion of the people of Mexico. She appeared as one of them and declared herself to be their Mother.

The saints cluster around the Christmas mystery in ways that help us to understand God’s intervention in human history that has transformed us and made us His sons and daughters. God has, indeed, provided the Perfect Gift and claimed us anew as His very own. Merry Christmas, to this blessed local Church of Washington.