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What Does It Mean to Find the Perfect Gift?

December 21, 2017

Jesus said many paradoxical things. For example: Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Mat 10:39). For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it (Mat 16:25).

The basic rule of life the Lord announces is that when we want something too much, or very insistently on our own terms, we can never possess it. Rather, it possesses us. Only when we let go of our obsessions are we free to enjoy the true gift the Lord is offering. Indeed, many of our insistent and worldly expectations become the cause of our resentments. Some of God’s greatest gifts come to us in unexpected ways.

C.S. Lewis wrote,

Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead …. Even in social life you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making …. Give up yourself and you will find your real self … [but] [y]our real self will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Christ (Mere Christianity Book 4, Ch. 11).

At Christmas we often think of gifts, what to give and what we will receive; but this misses the truest point of Christmas, which is to look upon our Savior, Messiah, and Lord. He became flesh to show us our truer self. In thinking of Him and looking to Him, we find our truest self. The truer self we find, though, may be very different from some of our grander, worldly notions. Indeed, those self-delusions must be lost, pruned away; they must die for our true self to be found.

We have to stoop low to find Christ; we must seek Him humbly, and look for Him in humble places. He is found in Bethlehem, a tiny village in the shadow of the great Jerusalem. Even there He is in no comfortable dwelling, but out in back, down at the lowest end, in a cave behind a house, a place where animals are kept. Having descended into that cave, we must stoop still further, peering down close to the ground into a manger, a feeding trough. There we see Him.

Yes, there He is, devoid of earthly glories but with heavenly light shining through Him! Seeing Him, we see ourselves. Having descended, dying to earthly notions of life, having “lost” our life, we find it; and we see our own truest glory on the beautiful face of Christ.

Scripture says, For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor 4:6) And we, who with unveiled faces reflect the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His image with intensifying glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Cor 3:18).

Here is the perfect gift, that we should decrease and He should increase; that dying to our own glories and shedding the masks we like to wear we can now reflect His glories.

Perhaps a picture will help. For this, we turn to the master of light and darkness in painting: Rembrandt. In his “Adoration of the Shepherds” (above right) see how Christ is the true source of light. His light is reflected on the faces of those around Him. This is our greatest glory and our perfect gift, to reflect the glory of the Lord with faces unveiled. To reflect this glory, the shepherds had to journey through the darkness, stoop down low, and die to their expectations of where a King should be born. In the darkness they see Him and they reflect His glory with unveiled faces. The greatest gift, the perfect gift of Christmas, is pictured here. They reflect not their glories, but His.

May the perfect gift of Christmas be yours, be mine, be ours.

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Comments (4)

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  1. Just A Sinner says:

    Amen!

    Wishing you a very blessed Christmas Father. I pray that God will bless you abundantly today, Christmas Day and everyday and for all eternity.

    Thank you for all your writings, I enjoy them very much. This past year they have made me think and ponder things anew, laugh, and resolve to improve myself with Gods’ grace.

    Wishing you a Happy and Holy Christmas!

    • RAY - PORTSMOUTH - UK says:

      Thank you ‘Just A Sinner’ for that lovely and very important insight.
      But – Thank The Lord you are not the ‘ONLY’ sinner! We are all here with you – all in the same boat, being tossed about on the sea of life. I for one am still, after 72 years, working hard at reducing my ‘self’, and trying to allow Jesus Christ to increase in me, as I would dearly love.
      But – hey! – Jesus IS coming – and He calms the rough waves and grants us peace and the grace to continue to change.
      Oh! That we could ALL see and take part in His glorious second and final coming, this very Christmas! Wouldn’t that be the most wonderful thing?!
      I pray very sincerely that all of us who call ourselves followers of the Lord Jesus could all, right now, answer that question with a resounding, “YES!!”
      And, yes, like our friend here above on your blog, Msgr Charles, I thank you so much for all you give us throughout the year. I, for one, can find this kind of solid spiritual food ‘no’-where else here – and most sadly, especially not in my own parish church!
      Finally, let me join with ‘the other sinner’ in wishing you, Fr Charles and ALL who come to this site, whether they leave their own insights – or go away and have their own private thoughts – a truly beautiful and peaceful Christmastide, and that Christ will ‘come again’ into each of our individual hearts and give us the courage and strength to go on into the New Year facing us – waiting and looking for His next great coming!!
      God bless you all – Love – Joy – Peace.
      CHRISTMAS 2017

  2. Dear Msgr. Pope,

    I echo Just A Sinner’s sentiments and add that your reflections/teachings have been a great gift to me as well as being the greatest gift I’ve been able to share with others.

    May God bless you as much as you have blessed me and countless others.

    Merry and Blessed Christmas and New Year.

  3. for you says:

    Thank you Msgr. for all you do, for being a Light in the darkness of this world. Thank you for being obedient to Jesus, for taking up the cross and following Him. It is getting more difficult to do so but then He gives us strength and the desire to cling ever more tightly to Him. In an upside down world Jesus takes our hand and won’t let go… Merry Christmas!