A Christmas scene: Wind-swept powder leaves delicate flowers frozen on the windows. The wintry pollen forms soft banks piled high on the pine branches. The thick, white layers swallow the usual cacophony of city sounds. It is a time of reflection, a time to recall those sage words of Jesus: "What does it profit a man to gain the world, if he loses his soul?"

It is little wonder that those who measure their wealth in material things are often the emptiest this time a year. Television presents them with a steady stream of programming dedicated to the truly beautiful possibilities of life--love, family, God. They wish for this same warmth in their own lives, yet do not know how or where to find it. Material or financial success is not enough to lessen their burdens. Unfortunately, the most privileged often experience tragedy first before discovering what is truly most important: It isn't the material things that satisfy but rather faith and human connectedness that ultimately fill the human vessel.

So much emphasis is placed on materialism and financial status. Those who define themselves by these artificial standards find that as they acquire these material goods, their souls become more restless and unfulfilled because they have set their sights on nothing else. Consequently, they lack an absolute moral reference point to help discern between right and wrong. Without this foundation, one merely lives from whim to whim, finding enjoyment only in fleeting moments of beauty.

When tragedy and hardship strike, these individuals are forced to ask the same question: If you place your passion in beauty, what happens when beauty vanishes? If your life revolves around objects, what happens when these objects crumble? If you place your faith in a loved one, what happens when that loved one dies? It is only when we place our love in God that we create for ourselves an immutable foundation.

Many feel they have no need to attend any form of worship service, not realizing their own restless longing for something more meaningful and significant in their lives. It is in church that we realize we are no more important than our poorest brothers and sisters in the eyes of our Creator. For He does not judge us upon our status in society, or the stocks we own, but upon the goodness of our spirit.

This holiday season, we must realize that our Creator has indeed blessed us--by giving us one another. We must strive to be our brothers' keepers and remind everyone that the greatest power we have is to touch and care for the human spirit. We sometimes forget this power and fail to share what we have with one another through word, prayer, and deed. Sometimes this giving can take the form of a simple kind word on the street to brighten a stranger's day, or serving Christmas Eve dinner at your local homeless shelter or nursing home.

Our actions also serve us in reverse. In the process of giving, we receive more than money can buy. When we give of our material wealth, we realize it is made up of mere things, to be gained and given without worry that we have lost something of ourselves. We can replace a car or a house, but a human life is priceless. Paradoxically, we can only lose ourselves when we try to gain the material things of this world. When will we wake up to the reality that all we can truly possess and all we truly need is love and compassion for one another?

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