In his classic News Note “Peace: The Essence of the Christmas Message,” Father James Keller, founder of The Christophers, tells the story of a woman who was out shopping on a cold December day. She stopped upon seeing a man in threadbare clothes, huddled on a bench, with a paper bag wrapped around his neck, trying to keep warm. Just then, a girl of about 11 or 12 years old approached the man, removed a bright woolen scarf from her own neck, wrapped it around the neck of this poor man, and then silently slipped away.

What a beautiful expression of the true Christmas spirit! To witness a completely selfless act of giving is to witness the peace of Christ alive within someone’s heart. “Peace is the essence of the message of Christmas,” wrote Father Keller, and Christ’s peace is special because of the way He gives, totally and completely, in a sacrificial way, to reveal the Father’s love to us.

John wrote, “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him…should have eternal life.” This is why Christmas is so much about giving, because adopting a giving spirit is the best way to honor God’s gift of His son to us. Giving gifts to others is a wonderful symbol of the love we have for them, but it’s important to remember that our giving should always be rooted in the things of the spirit, just like the gift that girl gave of her own scarf.

Gifts of the spirit are often less tangible but they can have a profound effect on people’s lives by revealing the love of God to them. A gift of the spirit can be a gift of time – we can share a meal with someone, an old friend or someone we know who suffers from loneliness. We can also give the gift of hope by living in a way to raise the spirits of those in our lives. We can give the gift of peace by setting aside differences and showing an enemy what it means to forgive. And we can give of ourselves by performing random acts of kindness.  

Another story Father Keller recounts in his classic Christmas News Note is that of a seven-year-old boy whose mother was busy with seasonal chores just three days before Christmas. The mother asked her son to shine her good shoes, so he went off and set about the task with love and devotion. Returning a short while later with a giant smile, he presented the shoes to his mother for inspection. She was so happy with the job he had done that she rewarded him with a quarter. But on Christmas day, when she went to put on her shoes, she felt a lump in the toe, so she pulled it out. Inside was the quarter she had given him, wrapped in a piece of paper. Upon the paper, the boy had written, “I done it for love.”

This is the essence of Christmas – to act out of love for others without care for personal gain, and this is what helps to bring about the peace of Christ in the world. Only when each individual understands the selfless gift God has made in His only Son, will peace truly reign. So allow Christ to work through you during this Advent season, performing random acts of kindness, and you will see hearts opened and the peace of Christ transform people’s lives.

For free copies of the Christopher News Note PEACE: THE ESSENCE OF THE CHRISTMAS MESSAGE, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org

Father Ed Dougherty, M.M. is a member of The Christophers’ board of directors.