As a “friar in training,” I’m pretty poor. I have enough to cover all my my needs and a few of my wants, but there’s no room for saving or extravagance. This, I have absolutely no complaints about.
One of the things that this forces me to do is to focus myself much better on the true meaning of the Advent and Christmas seasons. Most of my life I have been caught up in the “Season of Giving,” in which the holiday was dictated by things, either given or received; the great arrival that we awaited came in a box, not a manger. Even in the past few years when I’ve explicitly asked friends and family to abstain from buying me things, there has still been both a desire and a pressure to give to others (usually in the form of a purchased gift) which has inevitably led me to focus more on things and less on Jesus.
This year, I hope to no one’s surprise, I will not be buying any gifts for my friends and family members. For the amount I could possibly spend on each person, it is simply not worth the trouble. This, however, doesn’t mean that I will be ditching the sentiment altogether: there’s something to be said about the altruistic nature of the holiday that doesn’t need to be thrown away with the consumeristic “bathwater.”
Instead of focusing on the time as the “Season of Giving,” I’m going to try to see it as the “Season for Faith, Hope, and Love,” in which the three cardinal virtues will be my gifts to others. Understanding that gift giving is only one way to show affection to others, my lack of financial means will force me to try a number of the others: quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and touch.
I certainly believe that it is situations such as these, facing circumstances that upset the status quo of our lives, that we come to see the world in a different (and usually better) way, learn a bit more about ourselves, and ultimately grow closer to God and neighbor. I pray that this Christmas will be one filled with new experiences centered around the hope and joy of the coming Lord.