My nieces, aged from 3 to 9, always provide me with much food for thought.  When we really listen to them and observe their actions, children are quite profound.  Case in point:  Yesterday I received this photo of my 4 year old niece holding a box that she wrapped all by herself, just for me.  Granted, it was an empty box…but take a look at that photo, could there be a better gift?erb

The story behind this photo is that my niece told me that she wrapped my Christmas gift – and it was first gift she ever wrapped.  I said to her, jokingly: “Well, maybe I shouldn’t unwrap it then, so I can treasure how you wrapped your first gift.”  She was horrified!  “NO! It’s a present, you have to unwrap it!”  Not more than 10 minutes after this conversation, this pic arrived.  She wrapped an empty box, just for me!  I’m pretty sure the reasoning behind it is that since it is empty I don’t have to “unwrap” it and can just enjoy her artistic talents (of which I am impressed, as any devoted Auntie would be).

I don’t know what my “real” Christmas gift is, but it will be hard to top the one I received with this photo.  It’s not just an empty box, ya know! Nothing done with such love can be empty.  It is filled with love, imagination, wonder, joy, thoughtfulness, and everything that Christmas is.

When Our Lord was born in Bethlehem, perhaps some would have thought: “What’s so special about Him?  He’s just a baby like every other baby.”  Perhaps they were expecting a warrior savior, a great king…but not a little child.  Little did they know, that before their eyes was God Incarnate.  Some realized – like Our Lady and St. Joseph, the shepherds, the Wise Men, Anna and Simeon.  And for them, His Love changed everything.  An extravagant, eternal, incomprehensible Love, hidden in a little Baby…and now in our midst again, hidden in a little white Host.  He is Fullness, not emptiness.

We may be tempted to perceive as “empty” anything that is not filled with the glittery things that this world tells us will satisfy us.  But really, all those things are passing away and, in the end, we can all attest (if we are honest) that the things of this world leave us hungering for more.  They leave us bloated, but -in the end- not satisfied.

This Advent, perhaps we should all keep a box empty on our table.  We can fill it, albeit invisibly, with our hopes, our hunger, our love, our fear, our disappointment, our pain, and all the things that jingle around our hearts like loose change (it’s this ‘loose change’ that the Baby is longing for! – He desires our hearts and all that is in them). And, just before Christmas, we can wrap it and give it to Jesus, placing it near the creche.  It’s our hearts for which He longs, truly!  That’s the Christmas gift He so desires.  For darkened eyes, it appears to be just an empty box, but as we see in the photo above – enlightened eyes see how it is bursting with goodness.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?  If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.” – Christina Rosseti