The other day I heard a radio ad proudly announce, “The season of giving is over.” The not-too-subtle message was that Christmas is over, it’s time to stop spending on the needs of others and go back to getting stuff for yourself. Welcome the season of selfishness.

The reality is, of course, quite different than this retailer would have you believe. Christmas is a beginning, not an end.

And, for the Christian, the season of giving is never over. Our job is to share the love and light of Christ always and everywhere. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that joy is the first effect of love and the primary fruit of self-giving. (Summa Theologica 2-2, q. 28 a. 4)

Christmas is a receiving. We receive Christ. The rest of our existence becomes a giving. We share Christ with one another. We share the Good News. We become candles burning in the darkness to give light to others. Being a follower of Christ is a call to selflessness, to be drawn to caring for the other rather than the self. We clothe the naked, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, care for the ill, visit the imprisoned.

We love. We pass through Christmas embracing a new spiritual reality; that as Christ has loved us, so too should we love one another. God’s essence is love for us. He sent his only begotten Son to us out of love for us. (John 3:16) The essence of our life is to love God, and one of the ways we do that is by loving each other. That is how people will know you as a Christian. (John 13:35)

At Christmas we receive the greatest gift, the joy that comes to us in the form of a vulnerable infant. We see expressions of that joy infuse the lives of others. The shepherds hear the choirs of angels proclaim it, go into Bethlehem to see the wondrous thing God has done and leave sharing all they have seen and heard. The Magi see his star rise and they “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy,” enter into his house and fall down to worship him. (Matthew 2:10-11)

We get warm family images during the Christmas season. Jesus’ young mother wraps him in swaddling clothes and holds him close to her heart, knowing what magnificent things are being done for us through her child. We honor her days later as the Mother of God. We look upon the scene in the stable of the child lying in the manger, his mother and father gazing upon him and days after Christmas we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family.

Yet it is clear that these great things are not about us. Our focus should be on the Lord. He comes to us so that we can be redeemed to the Father. Jesus comes to us to show us that we are God’s children and that he wants for us to be with him always. Our life here is a journey back to the Father. We will make it there if we hold to the truths revealed to us, no matter the strife or the suffering. Life here is not just warm fuzzy feelings. Selfless life and selfless love involves sacrifice.

The day after Christmas we have the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr for the Lord. Stephen dies as a witness to the Truth of Christ. Days later we celebrated the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the children massacred in Bethlehem and surrounding area by Herod. These days stand as a reminder that we may suffer for him, we may be ridiculed or hated for him, some may die for him, but we still need to hold that child close and never let him go for he is the one who has opened the gates of heaven for us.

No more sour-faced saints

As we enter into this New Year, let’s be renewed to see the world through a spiritual lens. Receive the Christ child into your life. Embrace the joy that has come to us. Seek ways throughout the year to share him. Share him with your family. Share him with your friends. Share him with your enemies so that they become your new friends.

Don’t hide your light away. Be a beacon.

St. Theresa of Avila is said to have prayed, “From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us!”

The angel in the field declared, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people.” (Luke 2:10)

How can any believer who beholds that great joy be sour-faced?

Be a smiling Christian. Be a joyous Christian. We have received great joy, let your life be seen as an expression of that joy. Look upon your neighbor as if you are looking upon the Christ child and offer your love.

I keep going back to the child Jesus coming to us. That is because the reality of our faith is that Christianity isn’t just a belief, it isn’t just Scriptures, it isn’t just prayers and devotions. Christianity is a person. Christianity is Jesus Christ. Christianity is God come to us. Christianity is God becoming known to us. Christianity is the living, Risen Christ.

But it all starts from welcoming that child.

If you can’t welcome the crying child in the cold of the night in the manger, how can you welcome the Risen Christ who walks out of the tomb on Easter Sunday? How can you know the Risen Lord unless you know the Lord was born unto us and walked among us, taught us and healed us?

Pick up that child in the swaddling clothes and hold him close. Keep him close to your heart. Carry him with you. Love him with the same joy that his blessed mother loves him. Walk with him throughout the year as we move through the Gospel. Watch and listen to him as he increases in wisdom and stature. (Luke 2:52)

Walk with him.

Keep Christ in your vision throughout this year. No matter the hardship you must endure. No matter the suffering that you pass through. No matter whatever you may lose of this world. Keep Christ in front of you and walk with him.

“When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come, but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world. So your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:21-22)

See the Christ child born into the world all year long, and carry that joy with you everywhere.

No sour faces. No lukewarm faith.

Only love of Christ shared.

The season of giving lasts all year long. It never ends.

Kevin Theriault is a Lay Dominican writer, freelance journalist and photographer.

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