For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God
It’s only a few days before Christmas. Each year at this time, my mind starts to wander back to when our boys were young. There was always a flurry of excitement…Christmas programs, last minute shopping…secrets kept…anticipation of Christmas morning.
The boys usually took turns passing out presents on Christmas morning. They would look under the tree, find a gift for each of the four of us, and then we would open them together. This would continue until all the gifts were opened. The numbers didn’t always come out even, but that never seemed to matter.
I can picture it in my mind…little hands holding a gift…little hands reaching to receive it. It brought to mind a homily that Pope Francis gave a few years ago.
He told the story told of shepherds who were bringing gifts to the baby Jesus. One by one they came forward, handing items to Mary and Joseph. But one shepherd, being poorer than the rest, stood apart. His hands were empty, for he had nothing to give. So as the others competed to give the best gift, he hung his head, embarrassed that he had nothing to offer.
After a time, Joseph and Mary became overwhelmed with receiving the gifts…especially the blessed Mother, who was holding the baby Jesus. Seeing the shepherd standing to the side, she asked him to come near to her. Then she placed the baby into his empty hands.
The shepherd, startled, was deeply aware that he had received something he did not deserve…the greatest gift of all time. And his hands, once empty, now became the cradle of our Lord. Knowing the great honor he had been given, the shepherd began to show the baby to the others, sharing what he had received.
For some people, receiving a gift without reciprocating is hard to do…even when that gift comes from God. It may be embarrassment or a sense of unworthiness. It may be a sense of owing a debt or being obligated to another person.
But God’s gift of his son is not something we can earn. Nor deserve. Nor ever repay. It’s a gift of grace. It’s given freely and unreservedly. It’s offered to all. But in order to do so, our hands must be empty, as the shepherd’s were…ready to receive it. All we have to do is reach out our hands and accept it.
’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.