The Greatest Love Offers the Greatest Gift

"Adoration of the Shepherds" (detail) by Gerard van Honthorst

“Adoration of the Shepherds” (detail) by Gerard van Honthorst


“I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

Merry Christmas!

I love holidays. I love family. The two just seem to go together, don’t they?.

Some holidays are joyful gatherings, some less so. We are all too human, as the saying goes. But I say, give me holidays and family any day; warts and all! Especially give me Christmas, one of the two greatest of all holiday celebrations, if you ask me!

Christmas is a time for sharing gifts. It is important, though, that we remember what and Who our Christmas gifts image (point to). One thing I know as I grow older and older… material gifts are less important to me now. If you had asked me thirty years ago about my favorite Christmas presents, the answer would have been far different from my answer today. What is really important is the presence of God, family and friends.

In fact, the greatest of all gifts is God’s presence to us. For many people, much of life is spent pursuing created things when the Creator was there all along. And that is the truth the father tries to teach the elder son who stayed home in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. “Son, you always have me.”

God the Father wants us to know that we always have Him.

After the Fall, we had forgotten that and in the forgetting, we became less authentic—less true to who we were made to be. So when the time was right and all had been fulfilled, our God entered creation and became man at the moment of the Annunciation. And nine months later, God’s mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, gave birth to a son—the God-man Jesus. This gift of the Divine Self to mankind brings great hope, joy, and peace.

In the Gospel for Mass at midnight, we hear of the encounter of the shepherds with an angel of God and the heavenly host, “The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests’ ” (Luke 2:10-14).

We need to understand the setting for that first Christmas—time, not place. The prophet Isaiah describes perfectly the condition of the people of Israel at this incredible moment. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone” (Isaiah 9:2).

To be without God is to live under a dark, spiritual weight. But no longer! God is with us!

We have all heard this many times. Unfortunately, some things become so familiar that we lose sight of their significance. But let’s not lose the joy and peace that our King brings. Let us never forget the priceless gift of Himself that God gave to each of us on that first Christmas nearly two thousand years ago. This is the whole and entire reason we celebrate Christmas.

As we exchange gifts this Christmas morning and season, let us remember that the greatest gift of all is God’s gift of His presence to us and then followed by our gift of self to another… both our giving of self and our allowing others to give to us.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King! He is with us always.

Into the deep…

The readings for Mass during the Night (Midnight Mass) on the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) are: Isaiah 9:1-6; Psalm 96:1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14.


Into the Deep by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is a regular feature of the The Integrated Catholic Life™ and usually appears on Sundays.

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About the Author

Deacon Mike Bickerstaff Editor-In-Chief, ICL

Deacon Michael Bickerstaff is the Editor in chief and co-founder of the The Integrated Catholic Life.™ A Catholic Deacon of the Roman Rite for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Deacon Bickerstaff is assigned to St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church where he is the Director of Adult Education and Evangelization.

He is a co-founder of the successful annual Atlanta Catholic Business Conference; the Chaplain of the Atlanta Chapter of the Woodstock Theological Center’s Business Conference; and Chaplain of the St. Peter Chanel Faith at Work Business Association and co-founder and Chaplain of the Marriages Are Covenants Ministry, both of which serve as models for similar parish-based ministries.

He and his wife have two adult children, one daughter-in-law and three grandchildren.

NB: The views I express on this site are my own. I am not an official spokesman for either my parish or diocese.

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