If you’ve ever had the embarrassing experience of showing up at a party without a gift, you know the shame in trying to explain away your empty- handed arrival and the missing present. “I forgot it.” “The dog ate it.” “It was stolen from my car.” “I didn’t have time to shop.” “I’m broke.” “What can you get someone who has everything?” “I’m sorry; I just didn’t know what to get.” “Hey, here’s ten bucks. Get yourself something.” Nothing is more awkward than showing up with nothing.
At Christmas, a simple character, a pure invention of the imagination, reminds us of our awkward and embarrassing empty-handed arrivals. It’s the little drummer boy. In the well-known Christmas carol, he comes to the stable in Bethlehem, sees the Christ child, and is overwhelmed by the solemnity of the moment. Who wouldn’t be with so many angels, shepherds, and kings?
Then it happens: The kings place their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh before the King of Kings, and the drummer boy blushes, “I have no gift to bring.” At first it’s awkward, but then he has a flash of genius: “I have no gift to bring,” he sings, that is, except for me and the beating of my drum: “Rum pum pum pum.” The little drummer boy understands that his simple playing is enough of a gift for the King. Showing up is plenty. Isn’t that what Emmanuel (“God with us”) is all about? God shows 1 up and is present, and there is no greater gift. He’s the gift that changes the world and us forever. And just as God’s presence in the world is meaningful to us, our presence can change the lives of others j because the gift of true presence is greater than any other.
According to the 2010 United States Census, one of every six people lives alone. And despite the current boom in social media, many Americans are victims of loneliness. Some people find living alone appealing; for many others, feelings of loneliness and social isolation cause great pain and suffering. Prolonged loneliness can contribute to serious physical and psychological illness, even death.
Feelings of loneliness and emotional isolation often intensify during the Christmas holiday season. But this problem has a simple remedy: In the midst of the wrapping paper and ribbons, glitz and glitter, sparkle and spectacle of Christmas, stop and consider the underprivileged and less fortunate. Often they are the loneliest of all.
But someone in your family or among your friends could also be lonely. Show up. Be truly present in another’s life this Christmas and into the New Year. You are anything but empty-handed. The greatest gift you can give is yourself. Your presence is the greatest cure for loneliness.
By Fr. Bruce Lewandowski, Liquorian, December 2013, Page 8.