Daily Reading for December 21 • St. Thomas the Apostle

I’ve never been one of those who can anticipate Christmas unhesitatingly and with impunity. It’s one of those anxieties that I wish I could cover up or hide, the kind that causes as much shame as discomfort. . . .My discomfort with the gifts was a result of the circumstances that rendered me impotent to deal with buying them. By the very nature of things, there was a limit to the time that could be expended in acquiring them and an even greater limit to the money that could be spent. . . . By St. Thomas’s Day—or, as my mother used to call it, the Day of the Old Doubter Himself—I had already lost all sense of stables and stars. But more insidious, more dark than that, I had lost my sense of why.. . .

Gifting is a way to demonstrate love. It requires that we study another so intensely as to perceive his or her unspoken desires and meet them. It means to startle with the unexpected, the perfectly chosen. For our children we had always seen it as a way to form a thankful and satisfied adult, to create a readiness for generosity, the early habits of appreciation, and a sense of blessedness.

But already I was defeated, for I could accomplish only so much of this and no more. I was sure that this Christmas again I would make the wrong selection, disappoint one of the children beyond the limits of his or her vulnerability, lose God’s voice as I had lost God’s creatures, be too weary to worship. . . .

In all that stress of bearing up under my own limitations and of exposing my failures to those I love; in all that searching to understand the next name on the list well enough to buy something that will be reasonably near where he or she really is in life; in all that yearning to continue creating good things inside our children, knowing the process has grown beyond my reach—in all that, there is not only the sense of doubt and impotence, but also there is always the sense of release that comes on Christmas Eve. . . .

Tomorrow we can go back to living together again, each of us as ourselves. We can go back to the simple knowledge that in giving and receiving we have been involved at the deepest level of intimacy, have failed in places and succeeded in others. We have stopped to know each other in the stillness of the winter with no help outside ourselves, no impetus, no motivation beyond our own will to make holy the day for our God.

From What the Land Already Knows: Winter’s Sacred Days in the Stories from The Farm in Lucy series by Phyllis Tickle (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1985).

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