God the Father shows us great generosity when He gives us His Son in the Incarnation. God had the power to save us in any way He wished, but He chose to become one of us. In His gracious will, God draws infinitely near to the human race by entering. The physical presence of the Son of God on earth (first in the person of Jesus, and now in the Eucharist) is the greatest gift the Lord can give us. And, in response to this greatest gift, hearts that love the Lord swell with gratitude.
The Lord doesn’t have to come into our lives. Ever, at all. Yet, He constantly involves Himself with us, playing an active role in what we do and who we are. That’s what His Incarnation means — that He won’t remain at a distance from us. And now, in the Eucharist (in Greek, “thanksgiving”), the Lord gives us His whole self — body, blood, soul, and divinity. For this, we can offer great thanks.
Reflecting on this reality, as the season of Advent approaches (and, of course, the season of Christmas to follow), you might perhaps consider what gifts you might give to those you love and how best to receive with gratitude.
1. Pray about the spiritual gifts your friends have, and paint a representation of those gifts on something they can use to pray. You might paint on a journal or Bible. Hopefully, your piece of artwork will inspire your friends to greater heights in their prayer!
2. Decorate a phone case (clear or not) with the favorite devotions, quotes, or images of one of your friends. Although a phone case might not be something directly associated with prayer, it will be something your friend looks at all the time. Maybe the decorations on the back of his phone will turn his heart to the Lord when he least expects it.
3. Make cord rosaries for your friends and pray for them on it. Cord rosaries are pretty simple to make, and prayer to the Blessed Mother has an especially powerful weight in Heaven. Need to learn how to make one? Follow this link.
4. Make socks with your friends’ faces on them, and give them out to your friends! It sounds simple, and it is. This way, each time your friends might look down at their feet in despair (maybe?), they’ll rejoice to see their own faces or the faces of their friends on their feet. With this gift idea, you have the license to choose if you give friends socks with their own faces or socks with the faces of other friends. Use your best judgment. Here’s a link to make some face socks.
5. Make socks with your face on them, and give them out to your friends! This one is even simpler. You face will brighten the world from the feet of your friends. Follow the link in idea No. 4 if you’re interested.
6. Create Christmas ornaments for your friends based on shared experiences or inside jokes. If you and your friends went to visit the Golden Gate Bridge, you might find a way to sculpt a bridge and a little car with all of you in it. Take your creative freedom here! I trust you.
7. Pick one of your favorite books from your shelf, write them a note to a friend on the inside cover. Consider which books have touched your heart and why, and think of what your friend might like. Based on what you know about him or maybe even what you know about his prayer life, decide on a book that you think would speak to him well. After you’ve chosen a book, write a note to your friend giving a brief explanation of why you chose the book and what you hope they’ll glean from it.
8. Create an Advent calendar with one flap to lift for each day of Advent, and behind each flap write something that you appreciate about your friend. Try to think of things you like about her that go below the surface–instead of complimenting her hair, write something about her intentionality or good listening skills.
9. Create a collage about one of your friend’s favorite saints, but leave it unfinished so that your friend can add to it. They’ll see things about their saint that you found, and they’ll have space to add their own personal touches as well. Maybe they have a special piece of their devotion that they’d like to include!
10. Create a collage about one of your favorite saints, but leave it unfinished so that your friend can add to it. Present some quotes or images about the saint and give your friend space to learn some things for himself as well.
With all these gift ideas, I hope to provide some inspiration for your giving throughout these Advent and Christmas seasons. I hope also that, in giving, you might have a chance to practice intentional gratitude as well. The Christian life is best lived in a stance of generosity toward others and gratitude for what others have done for us. Whether in the Sacraments or in the in-between moments of our lives, we have the continuous opportunity to receive the freely-given gift of God’s self to us. Allowing God to be generous with His self-revelation to us will help us receive the grace to live well and with our whole hearts. As we approach the birth of Christ, God’s ultimate gift to humanity, may we have hearts open to giving and receiving?