Fostering Christmas Virtue
By Father Kenneth Wasilewski
As we busy ourselves now with preparations for Christmas, it’s good to recall the ways in which we each should, or should not, strive to be about the season. This involves many things, like ensuring we try to make it a prayerful season and making efforts to maintain a proper relationship with material possessions. 
It’s something we hear so often — and perhaps something we even lament ourselves — about how the celebration of Christmas can easily turn into a celebration of consumerism and materialism more than a celebration of the Christ child’s birth — a child who possessed the fulness of true riches, and yet was materially very, very poor. 
While we may not be called to imitate the level of material poverty Jesus knew in His life, each of us is called to live our lives in such a way so as to grow in the kind of riches He did possess — riches He continues to offer His followers. 
Each year we hear about the need to “Keep Christ in Christmas,” which is certainly very true. Especially as materialism whispers sweet sounding promises of happiness that it can never make actually materialize. The fact that we need reminders like this in the first place speaks to our human tendencies to sometimes focus on the wrong things and the pervasiveness of messages that can run counter to Christ’s own message. 
Every year, we’re given a gift of the opportunity to grow in our ability to focus more on the Christ child, while distancing ourselves from those things which can all too easily become a distraction away from Him.
Clearly, the Church has no problem with either owning things or the practice of gift-giving at Christmas or other times. To the contrary, giving gifts is rightly seen as a wonderful way to express love, affection and care — and even a way to increase a person’s joy and sense of worth. After all, our entire lives are, in one sense, to be a gift that we give to others in some way. So gift giving itself is a very, very good thing and can entail real virtues on the part of both the giver and the receiver — love, generosity and sacrifice along with gratitude, humility and appreciation to name just a few. 
But as can sometimes be the case, something normally very good, can also be approached in a way that can end up being harmful. Unfortunately, those human tendencies already mentioned can make it easy to focus on the gifts given themselves rather than what that gift, and the act of giving it, has the power to convey. 
We probably know all too well how easy it can be to get caught up in the wrong things that lend themselves not to a greater appreciation of what our faith has to teach us at this time of the year, but rather on the things that run contrary to helping us become more closely aligned to the heart of God. 
Given the pandemic situation we continue to find ourselves in, this year is bound to be different than other years in many ways. We might find ourselves more limited this year — limited in our ability to spend money on gifts, to travel, attend gatherings and parties and a host of other ways. 
But this background of increased limitation can also be an opportunity for us to expand our focus on Christ and the ways in which we enter into this season, so that we come out of it a little more the way that Jesus would want us to be. Perhaps a part of that for us involves a reflection on our approach to gift giving — both in how we go about giving gifts and how we receive them. Doing so might help our celebration this year be more in tune with the love which culminated in that original Christmas happening in the first place.