Let's start with how, in late 16th-century France, a Latin word slid into a French…
Channeling Mary’s generous heart this Christmas
Gift-giving is my love language. Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries — it doesn’t matter. My friends and family are getting gifts because it’s my way of showing that I love and care about them. The Christmas season is one of my favorite times of the year for this reason, but there is a fine line between keeping the focus where it should be during Christmas and going completely overboard, maxing out credit cards and throwing the holiday spirit out the window.
There are simple ways to help families focus on others and work toward a more virtuous holiday season instead of one filled with chaos and self-centeredness.
Christmas is celebrated because of one woman’s unconditional yes to God. What grace there is in following Mary’s model of selfless giving and vulnerability to the will of God. There is so much beauty in Mary’s fiat, in her absolute trust in God, in her desire to gift us the birth of her son. Yet how often is my own yes to God attached to the dozens of strings I’m holding onto? How many times do I falter in my trust in Jesus?
The Blessed Mother was always in my life, walking beside me even though I stubbornly refused to acknowledge her presence. Even when my life veered wildly off course as I had two abortions, started volunteering for Planned Parenthood and then joined as a counselor, I was drawn to Marian art. My home and office at Planned Parenthood had several images and statues of Mary. Even then, she was always calling to me. She was — and still is — always beside me, patiently waiting for my own yes.
Making time during the Christmas season to think and pray about that gift of Mary will help us draw more deeply into this special time of year and set aside more selfish desires. Through meditating on the life of Mary and praying the Rosary, our children will see and hopefully start to understand why giving of ourselves to each other is more important than ripping open a mountain of gifts on Christmas morning.
One way my husband and I have decided to teach our children about selfless giving is to pack shoeboxes full of small toys, notebooks and other essentials for children in poor countries who often don’t get anything to open on Christmas. My children love to shop for these kids, and the concept is easy for them to grasp. We participate in the Box of Joy program through Cross Catholic Outreach, which sends boxes to Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.
Last year, Americans spent around $720 billion on Christmas gifts, which came out to about $885 per person, and this season it is estimated to reach about $920 per person. To put these numbers into perspective, the combined GDP of the five nations where Box of Joy sends gifts to children is $198.5 billion. Can’t we sacrifice just a little for those who have nothing?
This is just one way that my love language and desire to draw closer to Mary during the Christmas season come together. For others, it may be to set aside more time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, organize a gift drive for foster children or call someone they haven’t spoken to in ages.
In her place of vulnerability after giving birth to the Baby Jesus, Mary accepted gifts on his behalf from strangers. She understood their desire to give what they had for the true king, and she opened her heart to them, loving them for their own yes to God in their own way. She’s waiting for us this Christmas season, too, and will help us become closer to her son.
God gives us so many paths to holiness — we just need to choose one. If a few gifts are involved, well, that certainly adds to the joy.
Abby Johnson is founder and director of And Then There Were None and ProLove Ministries and author of “Unplanned.”