Editor's Note: This piece is part of "12 Days of Classics," a holiday series drawn from the magazine's archives and published at magazine.nd.edu from Saturday, December 22, 2018, to Wednesday, January 2, 2019. Merry Christmas!
Christmas is the quintessential feast of children. Why? Because God not only became man, but He came as a child. And so He comes again, each year, to remind us that loving God is as simple as loving this child. Receiving Him, we receive all that is. I suppose that most of us savor our memories of Christmas as children — the anticipation, the carols, the gifts that gladdened our childish hearts and put our parents in willing debt, the wonderful (almost magic) tree, the Midnight Mass as we grew older, the happiest day of our year.
Now we are older. No longer children. But the old magic, the latent memories are there, never lost ,only coming from far away in more carefree days. Now we must somehow make the Christmas that we once enjoyed so effortlessly. Then, the spirit engulfed us. Now, we must create it for others — our families, our friends, all those who need us.
The spirit is really quite simple if we will embrace it. Christmas means giving, as the Christ Child gave Himself to us and to all the world. In His spirit we must give ourselves to others who need us, as we needed and still need Him.
Christmas is a feast of divine love. We both partake of it, no matter how old and scarred we get, and we give it by giving ourselves. That’s easy when we give to those we love. Beyond that, we must somehow find a way to give to those who are perhaps least lovable: the poor, the disgruntled, the old, the frustrated, the forgotten. They are all around us if we will only look and find them. They may even be part of our family.
As a priest, I most enjoy giving Midnight Mass, when the Christ Child comes again into a dark world, bringing warmth amid coldness, joy amid sorrow. These past two decades, I have had the great pleasure of bringing the Christ Child to abandoned communities in Latin America and Africa which for years have never had a chance to receive the savior of us all at Christmastime. May you all do the same, wherever you are this Christmas. In giving yourself, you give Him, and in giving Him, you make Christmas live again for yourself and all you love in His warm and wonderful giving.
Father Hesburgh was president of the University from 1952 to 1987.