Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Real Gift of Christmas

With Christmas fast approaching, many probably wonder, what gifts will be left for them under the Christmas tree this year. As a kid, I always remember getting that one special gift each Christmas: "I've got a tough assignment for you" Talking GI-Joe, the electric race track that entertained me and the family cat for hours, Electric Football with the Kansas City Chiefs players who quickly vibrated straight for the sidelines each play.

So we are all probably wondering...

What will be the best gift we receive this Christmas?

As an RCIA sponsor, this was shared with me in my parish RCIA class and I think it is appropriate here:

The Difference Between Santa & St. Nicholas

Santa Claus belongs to childhood;
St. Nicholas models for all of life.

Santa Claus, as we know him, developed to boost Christmas sales—the commercial Christmas message;
St. Nicholas told the story of Christ and peace, goodwill toward all—the hope-filled Christmas message.

Santa Claus encourages consumption;
St. Nicholas encourages compassion.

Santa Claus appears each year to be seen and heard for a short time;
St. Nicholas is part of the communion of saints, surrounding us always with prayer and example.

Santa Claus flies through the air—from the North Pole;
St. Nicholas walked the earth—caring for those in need.

Santa Claus, for some, replaces the Babe of Bethlehem;
St. Nicholas, for all, points to the Babe of Bethlehem.

Santa Claus isn't bad;
St. Nicholas is just better.

—J. Rosenthal & C. Myers

See: Who is St. Nicholas?


As far as what will be the best Christmas gift this season, maybe the above will cause us to refocus. Let's take a look at our Savior and what gifts he left behind.

There are quite a few Christian denominations who subscribe to the Sola Scriptura ("by Scripture alone") doctrine--one of the five solas developed by Martin Luther.

Sola Scriptura is the doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. The belief that "Scripture interprets Scripture" and the Bible is sufficient of itself to be the final authority of Christian doctrine. Hold on to this concept for a minute. If scripture was able to interpret scripture properly, why do we have 25,000 different Christian denominations? Knowledge is important but the New Testament was written after Christ's Death.

So what did Jesus leave behind for us?

Jesus didn't leave us a Bible. Besides a legacy of love, Our Lord and Savior, left behind two important things.

1) His Church:

  • Matthew 16:18-19: "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

Jesus said this shortly before predicting his own death. He entrusted Peter with authority over His earthly church which mirrors Isaiah 22:20-22.

Apostolic Succession is confirmed in the book of Acts (Acts 1-15-27) and in Acts Chapter 20:

  • Acts 20:28: Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

The Holy Bible is important. The Holy Bible contains Truth. We know that Jesus quoted from scripture..."For it is written" teach but what does scripture tell us is the pillar and foundation of the truth?

  • 1 Timothy 3:15: if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth

Reading the Holy Bible and knowledge is important. As St. Jerome once said: "Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ."

Father John Corapi, who has five advanced degrees in theology, has said that if knowledge was the key to sainthood, he was sure that he had enough knowledge to be canonized a Saint someday. But as he correctly noted, knowledge is not what makes one a Saint. Most of the Saints were not overly educated people.

If the Holy Bible was the most important thing Christ wanted to leave behind, He could have taken a tree and turned it into a million bibles and handed them to his disciples. But not everyone can read, not everyone can see. The most important things Jesus Christ left behind was His example of love, His church and the Holy Spirit.

2) The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is needed to properly read and interpret scripture and the Holy Spirit and the power to forgive sins was the last gift the Resurrected Jesus left behind.

  • John 20:21-23: Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Proof that the Holy Spirit was passed on by Apostle Paul (not one of the original 12 apostles) can be found in Acts 19:1-7

What are the fruits of the Holy Spirit?

Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

The above embodies the Spirit of Christ and what the Spirit of Christmas should be. We all probably have a good working knowledge of what is right and wrong, what is good or evil and sometimes we can probably recite the scripture.

The Holy Bible is a "Do-It-Yourself Manual" but you cannot do it yourself very well without proper spiritual guidance and the aid of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is needed to guide us into doing what is right to avoid sin.

Having been to numerous churches over my lifetime, I have never been able to find a church that connects me more to the Holy Spirit than the Catholic Church. The gifts of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Holy Communion which renews my baptismal promise and helps keep me alive in Christ and helps me from getting disconnected from the Holy Spirit.

So this Christmas, remember the greatest gifts Christ left behind. And the circumstances and situations in which he gave them--shortly before his death and returning from the tomb. And the greatest gift of all if we choose to receive it.

John 6:47: "Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life."

Have a very Merry Christmas!

A recommended video to watch, click HERE

Peace be with you,

© Michael J. Cox

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