Posts Tagged ‘Christmas Gifts’

Christmas Gifts: Lessons from the Heart

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Christmas Gifts, December 24, 2012

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2012
Mussari-Loftus Associates
All Rights Reserved
The Face of America Project

The Christmas heart is a giving heart. George Matthew Adams

The Question
In the silence of the early morning hours, I asked myself this question, “What words describe the best Christmas gifts?”giftsIMG_0113sm

Then, I asked myself another question, “Why did it take you so long to look at Christmas in this way?”

Like most people, the past two weeks have been filled with anxious moments, worrisome moments and shopping moments as Kitch and I searched for what we thought were appropriate gifts for this holiday season. In a way, we had commodified Christmas.

Then, one of life’s moments happened, and I returned to St. Mary’s, the church of my parents, to celebrate the life of our neighbor and friend, Kathleen Kane.

The Setting

During my childhood, St. Mary’s Church was like a second IMG_0169smhome. We went there for Confession on Saturday, Mass on Sunday, novenas, Stations of the Cross, benedictions, retreats and a variety of other religious services throughout the year.

I was baptized in that church during World War II. I graduated from high school in that church in 1959.  Four years later, St. Mary’s hosted the Baccalaureate Mass during my college graduation weekend. Almost a quarter century later, Kitch and I were married in St. Mary’s on a beautiful July evening.

Sitting in the sanctified building where so much time had been spent with my parents, my brother and sister and my friends caused me to think about what really matters in life, “Is it the getting or the giving, is it about me or thee, is it the here or the hereafter?”

The Answer

Listening to the words of Psalm 23, “The Lord is my345px-The_Sunday_at_Home_1880_-_Psalm_23 shepherd, I shall not want,” my focus began to change. 

“He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.” The words of Christmas began to take shape in my heart.

In this place of worship, I was at peace with the world and all of its distractions. It was a kind of peace that removes the discomfort caused by having, wanting and doing more for the sake of fulfillment.

When the celebrant, Fr. John Lambert, talked about the gift of age and how the deceased personified the independence, strength, understanding and wisdom that come with age, I felt the calming gift of serenity.  I was ready to accept the things I could not change; I was willing to change the things I could. In this moment, I humbly accepted the gift of wisdom to know the difference.

When the sweet sounds of the organ announced the beginning of the hymn Be Not Afraid, I felt a soothing kind of joy that lifted my spirits. It helped me come to terms with the empty feelings and broken connections my friends in Al-Anon speak about in our meetings:

93 Psalm

You shall walk the barren desert,
But you shall not die of thirst.
You shall wander far in safety,
Though you do not find the way.
You shall speak your words in foreign lands
And all will understand.
You shall see the face of God and live.

During the presentation of the gifts, I was reminded about our obligation to be kind to one another. That requires the gift of Christmas generosity every day of the year.

People who have a generous spirit are much more likely to have another Christmas gift, the gift of encouragement.  That’s a priceless gift, especially in our digital world where so many people are alone together, connected but not communicating, texting not talking.

The words of the ever popular and poignant On Eagles Wings inspired me to think about the ultimate Christmas gift, hope:

And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of His hand.

Before we left the church, Kevin Kane talked about his mother.  His remarks underlined another Christmas gift, family.

Without question, family is the centerpiece of Christmas. A family traveling together, seeking shelter, needing help, and giving thanks for the birth of a child.

The final moments of the celebration of Kathleen Kane’s life attended to the issues of faith and redemption. Very personal gifts to be sure, but personified in beautiful ways by the symbolism of the manger, the innocence of the Christ child, and the fulfillment of the prophesy:

“For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.”  

Going home to St. Mary’s to honor a friend and neighbor, I was given an invaluable opportunity to sharpen my Christmas focus and refine my Christmas thinking.  The most valuable Christmas gifts are not placed under a tree, they are forged on our hearts with the words: Peace, Serenity, Joy, Kindness, Encouragement, Hope, Faith, Family, and Redemption. 

These gifts are made permanent with love. Collectively they enable us to accept whatever life gives us and reflect the light of Christmas in all that we do and say.

George Matthew Adams, a journalist who knew something about Amrica at its best, said it another way:

Let us remember that the Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide open heart that thinks of others first. 

Merry Christmas

(This article is dedicated to Dr. Richard Loomis my teacher and friend.)

Please provide feedback to: