In our world today it seems the Christmas season is primarily viewed as a time of giving and receiving gifts instead of honoring the birth of Jesus. You can’t turn on the television or walk into a store without being barraged with Christmas merchandising. To be honest, I can’t claim to be totally innocent of this myself, I like giving and receiving gifts. There is nothing wrong with this, as it is a way that we demonstrate our love and affection to another, but obviously it shouldn’t be the focus of Christmas.
In the Gospel of Matthew (ch. 2) we see the Magi bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh as an expression of their adoration of the baby Jesus. While these tangible gifts are admirable, and in the case of the Magi largely symbolic, the deeper question is what are the true gifts we are to bring to God?
A couple of examples from the Hebrew Scriptures of what we should give to God immediately spring to mind. First, there is Psalm 51: For in sacrifice (gift giving) you take no delight, burnt offering from me you would refuse, my sacrifice (gift) a contrite spirit, a humble contrite heart you will not spurn. Then there is the prophet Micah (6:8): You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with your God. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is asked by a Pharisee what is the greatest commandment, he responds simply: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and love your neighbor as yourself. (Mt.22:34-39)
It seems to me that the greatest gift we can give to God is our lives. A beautiful example of giving back as an example of thankfulness is that of Mark, a long-time shelter guest who is one of the new residents at our Second Ave house. Usually when someone from the dining room or shelter receives permanent housing we rarely, if ever, see that person again. But in Mark’s case we now see more of him as he started coming to our dining room every morning to clean the bathrooms at the end of our serving time. I expressed how appreciative I was of this gift and that he didn’t have to do it. He responded “This is my way of thanking you (and all at CWHH) for what you’ve done for me.” I was deeply moved. I was even more moved a few weeks later when Mark and Darla, the other new resident at the house, helped George (a VERY long time guest at the shelter) find permanent housing. For years I, and other staff members have been trying everything we know to urge George to get housing, but he was very resistant. Then Mark, his long-time friend whom he trusts and listens to, started assisting him. First, Mark took George to Social Security to get him on SSI which increased his monthly check from a couple of hundred to close to $1000 a month; then he helped George set up a bank account so he could deposit both the social security money and a small inheritance he had recently received. But then the question arose of how to get George into permanent housing? This is where Darla steps into the picture. She talked with her former landlord, who operates several boarding houses in the area, and convinced her to accept George as a tenant. The landlord had concerns about George, but she decided to rent to him as she trusted Darla. Next thing we knew George had signed a lease and moved into permanent housing. All this because Mark and Darla wanted to give back for all they have received; they expressed their love of God through serving and comforting others. What better way to give thanks and praise to God for all we have received in our lives?
This is what we attempt to do at Catholic Worker Hospitality House on a daily basis. We try to express our love and commitment to God through loving our neighbor (the daily practice of the Works of Mercy). What better gift can we give God? For over twenty-six years we have been able to continue our work because of your generous support. We hope this Christmas season you will continue sharing your gifts with us so we can continue serving those most in need in our community.
In Christ’s Peace,
For all of us at
Catholic Worker Hospitality House
If you’re interested in providing a gift for one of our guests, may we suggest the following: sweatshirt, thermal underwear, hat and gloves, socks, or underwear. Whether homeless or housed, our guests spend a lot of time in the cold and would appreciate any of these items. Gift cards are also very much appreciated, especially for places where folks can pass the time: coffee houses, restaurants, movie theatres. We thank you for your generosity in helping to make this holiday season special for our guests.
Christmas Dinner Needs
We will once again be hosting a Christmas Dinner for all our guests. This year we will be able to return to a sit down meal after a couple of years of serving food to-go only. Can you help us host our annual Christmas dinner for our guests by cooking part of the meal? We need:
- Ham, cooked and carved
- Potato dishes
- Cookies, pie, or cake
- individual milk, juice, or soda
Please bring food donations between 10:00am – 11:30am Thursday, December 22. We will be serving the meal between 11:30am – 1:30pm that day. Food can be brought to our dining room at St. Bruno’s Church, located at 555 w. San Bruno Ave. in San Bruno. Please call us at (650) 827-0706 if you can bring anything or if you have any questions. Thank you!