The little ones are preparing their gifts to present to the baby Jesus tomorrow night at church. They'll tuck them in the hay near his Christmas crib after mass.
"Mommy, do you think that Jesus comes and gets his gifts or do you think the priests just take them?"
"Jesus can do anything He wants to do. If He wants to take your present, He will. And if the fathers take your gifts, they do it because they are His hands and feet on earth. Either way, Jesus receives your gift."
I don't really know what happens to their gifts every year. I have never asked permission because I don't want anyone to tell us we can't do it (you see my true character revealing itself here). Maybe the janitor throws them away. It doesn't really matter as long as the children get to give them.
The older kids don't put things at the manger anymore. They still give Jesus gifts but they are a more interior kind. Private... just between the child and their Lord, unless they want to share with me.
I was informed by one of them this year of their certainty that either the cleaning crew or the priests must take the little ones' gifts. I said, "Probably. But Jesus isn't just a nicer version of Santa. If He wants to take those gifts with His own two hands, he will." The child looked thoughtful, as if needing a moment to process that information, until finally deciding I was correct. "Yes, mom, you're right...it's not like He's Santa or something."
Isn't it funny and sad how quickly we lose our sense of wonder and belief? We have never done Santa and have always taken great care to convey the reality and truth of the Incarnation. And yet there remains that little doubt...
Oh, yeah... I almost forgot that God is that big and that real that He can step into our lives in any fashion He chooses.
One of my very favorite books to read to the children is The Clown of God by Tomie Depaola. There is one scene in the book that depicts people processing into the Church on Christmas Eve to present their gifts to the Christ Child. Not just their prayers or sacrifices but actual objects to lay at his feet. The juggler (the clown of God) sees this procession and wants to give to Jesus, too. But he is poor and old and homeless and has nothing to give...except his juggling. He pours himself out juggling for the image of the Child and collapses, dead from the exertion of this final gift of love. "For you, sweet child! for you!" he cries. I have read that book many, many times over the years and I can never get through it without choking on those words.
I've always thought it would be wonderful to do that as adults; I mean to physically approach the image of the Christ Child carrying our very best, whatever that might be. I think it would tell us a lot about how we love Him on a regular basis. Would be cheap with our materials because "it just goes to the priests"? Would we take less time to complete our work because we're a little busy with holiday happenings? Would we write a shorter story, bake a smaller batch, or sew a simpler garment?
Or would we give our best, pouring ourselves out, not because we will be noticed or useful in any way... but just because we love Him?
"What will happen to the scarf I made Jesus, Mommy?"
It is in Jesus' hands. He will never overlook your gift. Make sure it is your very best.