“…O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For if you desired sacrifice, I would have given it; with whole burnt offerings you would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; and let the walls of Jerusalem be built. Then you will be pleased in a sacrifice of righteousness…” (Ps 50/51: 15-19)
Giving gifts to one another on Christmas is a reminder of the self-giving of the Magi or “wise men from the East,” who brought themselves and their gifts to Bethlehem, falling down before the Child and His Mother (Lk 2: 11). The main sacrifice made by the Magi, I think, lies not only or even primarily in the price they paid for the expensive gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It lies rather in the great trouble they took to make the long trip to Bethlehem, to “search diligently for the young Child” (Lk 2:8), to fall down and worship Him as they did.
So let me remember the sacrifice of the Magi, as I go about my Christmas gift-giving, that I do it in the right Spirit; as a “sacrifice acceptable to God.” I might be tempted to spend money I don’t have, ultimately burdening myself and my family with debt and resentment; or I might burden myself with some other form of dishonesty, if my gift-giving is hypocritical, not aligned with the intentions in my heart. Let my gift-giving be constructive for my spiritual “house,” letting “the walls of Jerusalem be built” rather than damaged by the holiday. As I continue my preparation for Christ’s Nativity, let me put first things first, bringing to Him what is truly precious in His eyes, my “broken and contrite heart.”