Christmas Gifts

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by Si Smith, SJ

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There once was a time when we didn’t start Christmas Season until after Thanksgiving. Nowadays commercialism has us gearing up for Santa already after Hallowe’en. If we reflect on how our mental images have been altered over the years, we can see how easily we’ve been drawn away from the original religious meanings of Hallowe’en and Christmas to an almost exclusively secular (if not purely mercantile) mindset. How easily we let ourselves be duped!

There’s something about our IVC engagement, too, that’s not unlike that drift. It feels so good, so warm to be reaching out to help others less fortunate than we are, to be extending a hand to a fellow human in need, to be bringing some cheer into a rather drab life, etc. Well, it is a warm, fuzzy, after all!

How readily we deceive ourselves! We feel we are benefactors when in truth we are beneficiaries. Show me one IVCer who has not benefited from this often new contact with people poorer than we are. I am not referring to those vague feelings of pity or satisfaction that can accompany one’s engagement.

Rather I’m thinking of the often subtle changes in our personal scale of values, of the priorities we build into our daily schedule, of our attitudes which shift almost imperceptibly toward greater compassion, sensitivity and affection for the people we are now working with.

We can read all those wonderful, challenging stories about Jesus in the New Testament or we can hear them expounded from a pulpit, but it’s in direct service to the needy that they begin to take on flesh and blood and that we come to appreciate what a great gift is being offered us by the simple fact that we have chosen to reach out and serve our neighbor. We are the ones who benefit most.


Simon (Si) E. Smith, S.J is a New England Jesuit with a broad background and varied international experience.  He taught at different levels in Baghdad College, Iraq, Boston College, Weston Jesuit School of Theology, Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley and Nativity schools in Boston and Worcester. His major and preferred areas of instruction are Scripture and liturgy.  He is known as an organizer and administrator, having spent a dozen years based in Washington, as Executive of Jesuit Missions for the U.S. and Canada. Si has published widely, is a popular lecturer, is fluent in French, Spanish and German and has traveled & worked extensively in the third world. And we are grateful that he also serves IVC as a Spiritual Reflector.

4 Responses to “Christmas Gifts”

  1. Jim Haggerty

    Well put Si. A good reflection to start Advent. Personally Advent is my favorite liturgical season and despite our culture, we are hoping to fully celebrate it this season. Hope you are well and blessings on the journey.

  2. camille

    Great reflection. It didn’t take me a long time to realize that I was a beneficiary of Love, loving. I was gone all Thanksgiving week, spending a week with my local personal family and my late husbands family in Ireland. We had a GREAT time but it was nothing in comparison to the greetings of love, we missed you, hugs galore and I prayed for your safe trip, etc. All this expressed by nursing home residents with little to celebrate in the physical sense but show the face God to me with regularity.

    • Norm

      For curiosity’s sake, what kind of time frame were you thinking when you said,In the long run a nation cannot consume more than it produces? Something I saw on the news the other day made me think of something similar. Email is fine if you care to respond.


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