Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas gifts

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Merry Christmas to you! 

Christmas is a time of giving gifts. Gifts come in many different forms, of course. Many begins with the sending of cards, the gift of a few moments of time taken in the buying, writing, and posting of a card as a token to remind those far away whom they do not see very often that they still think about them, that they still care. These days some make the extra effort to include a little note, a letter, or even a 'round robin', almost like a newsletter to let the friends and relatives they rarely see or talk to what has gone on with them and their family over the course of the year that has gone by.

Then there is the visiting and dropping by to people's houses, or perhaps going out for a drink or a cup of coffee; the giving of self, the giving of time. And the giving of time is not something to be disparaged. We live in a society where time is a precious commodity. Taking that time out of a busy schedule to call to the house of a neighbour, a friend, an elderly relative, or someone who lives alone almost certainly means more to them than anything else that you could give them.
Of course, the gift giving doesn't stop with time. Many like to give something small to those around them. I remember as a child one of the standard gifts an uncle or an aunt might give to a 'house' was a tin of biscuits called USA … so called, I believe, because back then anything associated with America had a certain glamour about it. And the tins became almost a form of 'gift currency' … you could only eat so many biscuits, after all; so once you had several given to you, tins would start being passed on, recycled really … there were times when I wondered if the tins were ever actually opened, but that instead they were simply passed back and forth year after year, the cellophane seals unbroken, while the biscuits inside crumbled to dust!

But such small gifts, whether tins of biscuits, or bottles of wine, or boxes of chocolates, or a dozen home made mince pies, are for those in the wider circle of friends and family. For those really close are the more personal ones … and yes, they may include pairs of socks, colourful ties, even more colourful jumpers … but they will also include items that show how much the giver really knows you and how much they care … things that you really want but would never think to buy for yourself … things that it never even occurred to you to want, but once you have them, you know immediately that not only is it something that you really needed but is absolutely the perfect gift for you … a gift that shows just how much the giver knows and loves you.

It was just such a gift that we all received on that first Christmas so long ago, given to us by one who knows us completely and loves us completely. At the heart of the Christmas story is the fact of God's wonderful gift to us … that beautiful, old, familiar story where Mary says 'yes' to God's message brought to her by the angel Gabriel; where Joseph agrees to raise as his own son the Holy Child; the story of a journey to a place where there was no room at the inn; to the birth in a stable and the manager that served as a crib; of angels singing in the skies, of shepherds visiting, of stars and wise men … at the heart of all that wonder lies something even more wonderful … that the Word was made flesh … that God himself entered into our world for us … that he gave of himself out of his love for us … the one who gives life to all gave the gift of himself so that all might have eternal life.

There is nothing we can give in return, for what can you give to the one who created and sustains all of creation? All we can do is receive it with thankfulness … and by living the kind of life that shows that we accept that gift, by showing we desire nothing more than the eternal life which is offered with it … and by playing your part in making sure others hear of the gift that was also given for them, so that they may know that Christmas is more than gifts under the tree.

Later, when you are unwrapping those gifts, take a moment to remember what they are tokens of … the love not just of friends and family, but the love of God himself, and the great gift he gave to each and everyone of us in the sending of his only Son … and as you remember, determine anew to make the most of that gift God gave you today and everyday … amen.

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