How can my family and yours make Christmas a start and not an end of seeking Jesus? Here are three “gifts” your family can give Jesus this Epiphany.
by Cindy Coleman
As I came downstairs just now, I still savored seeing the glow of the lights on our Christmas tree. The presents were opened (mostly) Dec. 25 and have been moved to their proper place in our home (mostly). This year I find myself particularly basking in the abiding peace of the Christmas season. For our family, the Christmas lights will no longer be lit each night, our tree and other decorations will come down following the celebration of the Epiphany Jan. 7. How can my family and yours make Christmas a start and not an end of seeking Jesus?
Our readings for the Epiphany focus on the Messiah as the long-awaited king of all nations. The main characters in our Gospel reading (Mt 2:1-12) are the Holy Family, Herod and the Magi. While the Gospel never says how many Magi there were, we traditionally think of them as the three Magi because of the three gifts they brought.
A Journey of Faith
I always seem to come back to the image of my faith life as a journey. One that I hope will end in heaven. So the idea of the Magi’s journey appeals to my imagination. What a journey of uncertainty! A journey based on following a star. A journey to an unknown destination seeking an unknown king. A long journey of perhaps even several years with risks like dealing with corrupt King Herod. Yet journey on they did with what Pope Francis has called a “holy longing” for God. I am that journeyer, too. Are you? How are we seeking Jesus?
Three Gifts for the New Year
When they found the baby Jesus, “they prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts …” What gifts can we offer to Jesus?
The new year is a time many of us makes resolutions to change our lives in various ways. Instead of resolutions to lose weight, save money or exercise more, what if we resolved to offer our best gifts to Jesus? Symbolic of the three gifts of the Magi, I am thinking of three gifts that will help us to seek Him more and more. Gifts of the heart, of the mind and of treasure.
A gift of the heart: Worship and prayer
For me, that will be strengthening my resolve to increase time for personal prayer every day. Also, renewing my commitment to make it to Eucharist adoration every Friday. For you it might be taking 10 quiet minutes to yourself to pray. Two very basic suggestions are to read and take a few extra minutes to ponder the daily Gospel or Mass readings. These can be easily accessed in free Catholic apps such as Laudate or Relevant Radio or online at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Or maybe this step-by-step Prayer Process from Dynamic Catholic that is meant to take about 10 minutes per day would suit you more. For your family it might be adding grace before meals, a weekly rosary (or a decade or two here and there) or some one-time prayer practices like the Epiphany Blessing of the Home.
A gift of the head: Learning about the faith
Read more Scripture, which is different than praying with Scripture as I suggested above. Does your parish offer a Bible study? Try it and I guarantee you won’t regret it. Here are some suggestions from Brandon Vogt for how to read more of the Bible, even reading the whole Bible in a year for the very ambitious! For your family this could be reading aloud together from a children’s Bible or reading stories of saints. Does your parish subscribe to FORMED (aka “Catholic Netflix) which offers Catholic recordings, movies, teaching series and books for both adults and children?
A gift of treasure: Time, talent, and money
At the start of each year, it is a good time to check on our giving — in all those forms. For many, time is the most precious thing you can offer. So many volunteer groups are begging for help more and more. The majority of catechists in our parish have no children in the program and many classes lack an aid. The same is true of the parent groups at schools and in almost every group in our parishes. Even if you can’t volunteer regularly, seek out and take single instances to volunteer yourself or with your family. Does your parish collect meals for homeless shelters or shut-ins that you could make with your children and drop off? Write a note or have the kids make cards for elderly neighbors or the parish homebound.
I invite you to sit down as a family and write down the gifts you will offer Jesus this year. You can make it a prayer. “Jesus, you are the king of kings. I offer you my gift of ….” With some grace and prayer, I’m sure our gifts will lead us to him who we seek.
Cindy Coleman is a second-grade catechist and VBS leader at both her home parish of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, Montgomeryville, Pa., and at St. Jude Parish in Chalfont, Pa. She is passionate about sharing our Catholic faith with children and their families. She also is co-coordinator of her parish’s Liturgy of the World with Children. Among her other parish activities, she is being trained as ReachMore group leader and leads the newly started WINE (Women in the New Evangelization) group. Cindy is married to Ron and the proud mother of Matthew, who recently graduated from the University of Notre Dame.