FR EMMANUEL OCHIGBO
There was a workman, an employee at a factory. He was walking out of the factory at the end of the work day, and he was going out with a wheelbarrow. In the wheelbarrow, there was a little box. When he got to the security checkpoint, the security guard asked him, “What do you have in the wheelbarrow?” The man replied, “I have a little box in the wheelbarrow.” The security guard said, “Yes, I can see that you have a little box but what do you have inside the box?” The man explained, “You know the sawdust on the ground at the end of the day that they sweep and throw away? It is part of the sawdust that was thrown away that I have in the box to use at home.” The security guard said, “I don’t believe you, open it and let me see.” So, he opened the box and the security guard saw it was as he said and he let him go.
The second day, the same man walked out with a little box inside a wheelbarrow, and he had the same interaction with the same security guard as the first day. The same thing happened the third day, the fourth day, the fifth day and the sixth day. On the seventh day, the same man was walking out of the factory with a wheelbarrow and a little box inside and he met the same security guard. The security guard asked him, “What do you have this time in your wheelbarrow?” The man explained, “Just like the previous days, Sir. You know the sawdust on the ground at the end of the day that they sweep and throw away? It is part of the sawdust that was thrown away that I have in the box to use at home.” The security guard said, “I don’t believe you, open it and let me see.” So, he opened the box and the security guard saw it was as he said. The security guard then said to him, “Something tells me that you have been stealing something from this factory; I promise you, I will not report you, just tell me the truth, what have you been stealing from this factory? The man replied, “I have been stealing wheelbarrows.”
My dearly beloved in Christ, in life, many times, we focus on the little packages that we forget the bigger picture. We pay so much attention to little things that we forget what really matters. One season when we focus on things that do not really matter is the season of Christmas. Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, and during this season of Christmas, so many are stressing out, so many feel bad because they feel they have not prepared well for Christmas. The shops ran out of the right gifts, they ran out of the right flowers, so our decorations this year are not the best. Some others are sad because no one gave them the gift they wanted.
In today’s gospel passage, John the evangelist reminds us of the bigger picture, he tells us the heart of the matter, he reminds us that all we are celebrating is the fact that the Word of God became flesh and made his dwelling among us. The second reading, the Letter to the Hebrews, reminds us that in times past, God spoke to our ancestors in partial ways, through the prophets, but now, our own time, God has spoken to us through his own Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ, God has given us the best of all gifts, which is the full presence of God. In Jesus Christ, we now experience God as one like us. In Jesus Christ, we see our God, we hear our God, we touch our God, and we experience our God as God really is. That is what we celebrate at Christmas.
In addition to the gift of his presence as the best of his gifts, God has also challenged us to become that same holy presence to the people we encounter. The best gift we can give to our fellow human beings is the gift of our presence, the gift of being fully present to one another. Unfortunately, our technological growth makes it more and more difficult for us to be present to one another. After the invention of the television, we thought we had seen the worst when family members were no longer fully present to one another because they were all focusing on the screen. But when the smartphone came into the picture, we realized that there was something worse. In the case of the television, even though the family members were not present to one another, they could stay together in the same room and focus on the same screen, but when the smartphone came, it became the case of everyone to their individual tents, everyone focusing on their own phones.
A sincere examination of families would show that family members are mostly not present to one another in this season of Christmas. So much exchanging of presents, devoid of presence. So many are now on vacation, so many have traveled from their schools and from their places of work to be present to other family members, but when they come together, these people who have traveled from far and wide will now begin to reconnect with those they left at school and at work. They spend their time on their phones with little or no time to be present to their family. Parents are not innocent of this fault. Some parents now think that gadgets can take over their presence. They think that gadgets can replace them in their children’s upbringing. Parents buy smartphones for toddlers just to keep them distracted so that the parents can deal with other things. Whatever gift we give to our neighbors, to our family or even to strangers, should be an expression of our presence and never a replacement of our presence. For this Christmas, take up the challenge to listen to the story of at least one family member, not necessarily to offer advice, not to judge them, but just to understand what life has been like for them.
My dearly beloved in Christ, as we gather today to celebrate the best of all gifts that God has given to us, the gift of God’s presence, may the Holy Spirit enlighten us and open us up to acknowledge the presence of God, and may we become that divine presence, that holy presence to everyone that we encounter, until we come to our heavenly inheritance, through Christ our Lord. Amen.