A CHARMING legend about the birth of Jesus relates that the shepherds hurried to the stable with their gifts. Each one brought what he had, some brought fruits of their labor, others some precious itBut as they were all presenting their gifts there was one shepherd who had nothing to give. He was so extremely poor; he had no gift to present. As the others were competing to offer their gifts, the poor shepherd stood apart, embarrassed.
At certain point, Joseph and Mary found it hard to receive all those gifts, especially Mary, who was holding the baby. Seeing that shepherd with empty hands, Mary asked him to draw near. And then she put the baby Jesus in his arms.
That shepherd, in accepting baby Jesus, became aware of having received what he did not deserve, of holding in his arms the greatest gift of all time. He looked at his hands; those hands that seemed always empty: they had become the cradle of God. He felt himself loved, and, overcoming his embarrassment, began to show Jesus to the other shepherds, for he could not keep for himself the gift of all gifts: Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior.
Friends, if there is one gift that I wish for you, it’s not material things, pleasures, or personal success. It’s the gift of faith in Jesus, who loves you unconditionally, who wants to be close to you, to be cradled by you.
For Jesus is the gift that will bring light to your dark moments. Jesus is the gift that would bring light and joy to your homes and all your relationships.
Jesus is the gift that would satisfy your hunger for meaning, purpose, joy, and fulfillment in life. He is the Bread of Life. it’s no wonder that he was born in a little town of Bethlehem, which in Hebrew means “house of bread.”
It is also no wonder that at the Last Supper, he instituted the Eucharist to tell us that he, indeed, is the bread of life. For when we break bread and share the cup of blessings together, we receive Jesus, the Bread from Heaven, the Bread of Life.
Jesus is the gift that blesses our poverty: the poverty of our hearts and our hands, as he blessed the poor shepherd in the Nativity legend who came to visit without a gift. Jesus comes to fill up what is missing in our lives, to bring warmth and renewal to any relationship.
Why? It’s because our faith in Jesus embodies love, compassion empathy, understanding, forgiveness, healing, peace, and hope
Born from a humble family, Jesus came to sanctify all families and all human relationships. He came to tell us about the joy and beauty of being part of a human family.
It is in the warmth and closeness of a marriage and family that gives us comfort and happiness. It is the depth of friendship that invigorates us. It’s why on Christmas Day, we come together to renew our relationship with our family members and friends.
And so, if the there is a need for forgiveness, forgive; if there is a lack of understanding, try to understand, if there is a need for empathy, empathize. There is nothing more delightful than being reconciled with others and having peace of mind and heart. There is nothing more joyful and healing than depth of relationship,
In the Christmas story I shared with you, the poor shepherd could not keep the joy to himself of holding the baby Jesus. He showed Jesus—the greatest gift he received—to the other shepherds. Like this poor shepherd, we must share this gift of faith with others. And the best way to do it is to be “the gift,” that is to be Jesus to others.
But we must share it with joy! Joy is what evangelizes people. Joy, because we have found the pearl of great price!
As we celebrate the New Year, may you all receive this gift of steadfast faith in Jesus Christ, our Savior. And may you share it with great joy!
Happy New Year!
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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.
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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.