Word Magazine December 1998 Page 13


By Archpriest Steven Rogers

Probably everyone of us has uttered these words this time of year: “What do you want for Christmas this year?” The more we care for a person, the more important those words are as we seek to bring joy to those we love.

What special something can I get my wife this year?” What can I give that special friend to show how much I appreciate him?” “What can I do to make Christmas special for the kids this year?” And so we scurry about, seeking that perfect something — that perfect gift that will fulfill our loved ones’ hearts’ desire.

But once the gifts have been given, the question changes. Now the words on our lips are not, “what do you want,” but “what did you get for Christmas?” Those words are uttered in almost every household, office, schoolroom, and yes, even every church. The measure of a joy-filled Christmas is most often a comparison of our “wants” and “gets.” A good Christmas is when we “get what we wanted,” when we give that perfect gift.

Try as we might year after year, we will never be able to give that “perfect gift.” Why? Because there is only one Bestower of perfect gifts. Near the end of the Divine Liturgy we proclaim, “For every good and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from Thee, the Father of Lights.”

The truth is, the perfect gift has already been given and on the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, St. Paul proclaims the nature of that gift in the appointed epistle reading: “Brethren, when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son: and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” (Galatians 4:4)

Paul proclaims the perfect Christmas gift: being made a son and heir of God! God has come in the flesh, and in taking on our flesh has reunited us with our Father, offering us eternal peace of soul and spirit. The perfect gift lies not in a department store or catalog, but in a tiny manger in Bethlehem!

“Let heaven and earth today make glad prophetically. Angels and men, let us keep the spiritual feast. For God, born of a woman has appeared in the flesh to those that sit in darkness and shadow. A cave and a manger have received Him. Shepherds announce the wonder; Magi from the east offer gifts in Bethlehem. Let us, then, from our unworthy lips offer praise like the angels: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, which Thy coming has bestowed upon us, O

Savior: glory to Thee.” (Litiya of the Feast)

As we seek to bestow gifts and anticipate the receiving of gifts this Christmas season, let us not lose sight of the truth that the greatest and perfect gift is not under the tree, but is He who was crucified on a “tree” for our salvation. If we desire to give a joyous gift to those we love and care for, then let us share the gift that God has given us.

“For unto us is born a young child, the pre-eternal God.” (Kontakion of the Feast) If we share this joy, if we share this gift that God has given us — Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh — then we will, indeed, bestow the most perfect Christmas on those we love.