The holiday season is a time when many of us think about buying presents. If we’re not careful, it’s a moment when we might get caught up in the frenzy of consumerism. Thankfully, it’s also a time of “joy and hope brought to us by Christ, the most valuable gift any of us can possess.” according to my pastor Fr. Mark. The challenge for many is real – how do we balance our desire to share material gifts while remaining true to the real spirit of Christmas?
Looking back, I am not sure how she did it. There were so many balls in the air including 10 smallish children, 4 young couples, dinner menus, bedroom preparations and so much more. Somehow though, Mom managed to make every Christmas holiday on Cape Cod uniquely special. She had an uncanny way of finding just the right gift(s) for each person. These special things were not huge or expensive, rather they were hand-picked treasures, chosen with love and incredible thought by a person who wished only good for others.
To be clear, Mom was always very fair in her gift giving thus a tradition evolved where family members received additional gifts that she liked to call side-gifts, which were different than the main Christmas gift. I am not sure how she came up with this clever name but it certainly made for a jolly holiday visit. It also enabled Mom to experience the joy of giving over several days – watching her loved ones open treasures which she had selected throughout the year.
Upon arrival at her beautifully decorated Cape Cod home, one could expect to receive a few side-gifts leading up to Christmas Day. These treats ranged in scope from handmade jewelry to sweets, books, personalized items and much more – all impeccably wrapped and tied up with a matching bow. When it came to her grandkids, she managed to sneak in extra toys which they’d been asking for since she kindly reminded the parents that they were just side-gifts. Over time, it became a much anticipated exchange between the children and their grandmother – celebrating Nona’s creative side-gifts.
Looking back, I believe Mom’s giving of side-gifts reflects the beautiful virtues we are called to live during the holy season of Advent – hope, faith, joy and peace. Mom patiently chose her side-gifts throughout the preceding year, waiting in joyful hope for her family to come together again. She lived a joy-filled life, trusting in God’s day-to-day presence thus was a witness to peace and hope when any type of challenge arose. We all looked to her as a beacon of faith and she didn’t disappoint, guiding us through the mountains and valleys of family life. As Catholic Christians, we wait in joyful hope for the coming of the infant Lord who is Love. Mom’s side gift giving was simply an extra outpouring of the Love which she welcomed into her heart daily and which she shared generously with those around her. This holiday season, may we all find ways to be and share that Love with those we cherish. Perhaps it might even be in the form of a side-gift!