The list is in! The most popular kids' toys of 2006 are as follows: the Elmo doll, the digital camera from Fisher Price, Dora's talking cash register, and the Baby Alive Doll — to name a few. The hottest game systems of the season are the Nintendo WII, and the Sony PlayStation 3. If anyone took advantage of the mind-blowing sales on Black Friday, I'm sure they could add even more gifts to the ever-developing list.

Do any of these Christmas gift ideas provide a symbolic alternative to gold, frankincense, and myrrh? I have often wondered if Christmas would be more easily spent without all the trees, lights, and gifts. Yet I am always reminded that we are both body and soul. As Pope John Paul II stated, "The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible…" Thus, the mystery of Christ becoming man is celebrated in a visible and tangible way every Christmas season.

We don't need a new flat panel plasma TV to remind us of the Savior's birth. As we look at the traditions and customs that have been created for the Christmas season, however, we find examples of very visible and physical ways of celebrating Christ's birth. Every year, families decorate trees of all kinds. They gather around a piano and sing Christmas carols. Mothers and children transform normal kitchens into bakeries while designing new cookie recipes and other delectables. Plays about the Nativity are acted out throughout the country, and Christmas cards go out to everyone we know. Family photos are taken, and families become reunited, even if for just a day. These visible and tangible expressions of the Christmas season remind us each year of an historic phenomenon.

Mary, our blessed Mother, miraculously conceived a child in her womb and, through the intervention of an Angel, she and her husband Joseph went to Bethlehem. On their entrance into the City of David, Mary and Joseph found themselves without lodging accommodations; the Son God came into the world in a barn. The shepherds, accompanied by the angels, rejoiced at the magnificent events of that night. The celebrations were executed with singing and dancing, praising and worshiping. The Magi came to honor Christ, the newborn King, with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to express their respect and honor to Him.

When we are thinking of a gift for someone else, do we hope to impress the recipient with our wealth, or strive to give them the newest, latest, and greatest toy, clothing, or best-selling novel? If gifts are expressions of our love or sincere appreciation for others, then what matters is that they come from the heart. Thus, the motive for gift-giving is our way of making visible what is invisible; the gift becomes a tangible means by which we express our appreciation or love for someone else.

Gift-giving, then, takes on a whole new meaning. Gifts are the visible expression of an interior disposition of the heart. We look to find that perfect gift which will relay this message of love. We desire happiness for the recipient and not for our own benefit. Gifts we have received should bring to mind the generosity and love we received from the gift giver. Often children and adults are bombarded with so many gifts that they are unable to remember where each gift came from. And often, these gifts go unappreciated because they become a Christmas commodity.

Maybe this year we can take a moment to think about why we are giving someone a gift, and what our motive is. As we prepare to receive gifts this Christmas season, we should be mindful of the love of the gift-giver and appreciate the gift. These principles of gift-giving may make us think twice about rushing to the store the day after Christmas to exchange the gifts we received.

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