Good Giving

Christmas is coming!  For some, those three words might engender a sense of dread, but my personal hope is that Christmas is a celebration to which we can all look forward.  For most people, there’s a break from work, the chance to gather with family and friends, and even the joy of receiving cards and news updates from people in far flung corners of the world.  Homes and shops and offices will be decorated with lights and sparkles and wreaths and trees.  The commute home will be made more interesting with the sight of ever more extravagant displays of festive illumination.  Coffee shops will serve their speciality Christmas concoctions and pubs and restaurants will wheel out their distinctive seasonal menus – school pupils can even order turkey and trimmings before term is out.

Then there are the presents.  For some people (and especially the younger ones), the greatest delight is in receiving new stuff, but others get a real kick out of scouring the shops (online or otherwise) trying to find unique gifts for their loved ones.  There’s always the temptation to buy something that we like rather than think carefully what the receiver would like, but we need to overcome this.  I read somewhere recently a joke about a man who had been dropping hints to his wife for months about wanting an Xbox, but she bought tickets for a spa weekend for two.  He said he wasn’t disappointed, though; he let her take a girlfriend away with her for the spa weekend and she agreed he could play on the Xbox he had bought her!

The key to authentic giving surely lies in making the effort to give gifts that communicate our love.  Flowers bought on Christmas Eve from a petrol station certainly say something, but we would all do well to ensure that the presents we procure are more than afterthoughts.

The heart of Christmas is God’s gift to us.  In John’s Gospel we read, “God loved the world   so much that he gave his one and only Son.”  He didn’t pop into M&S and wander round the seasonal aisles till something caught his eye.  He didn’t type “gifts for human beings” into Amazon’s search bar.  He didn’t nip down to the Esso forecourt at the last minute!  No, the Bible tells us that before the foundation of the world, God planned to send his Son.

The God of all creation knows us intimately.  In Psalm 139 we read these words: “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue, you, Lord, know it completely.”  This all-knowing Lord looked at us from all eternity, considered how best to show his love, and chose to give us his Son – the one who “is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3); the one in whom “all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).  Jesus is God with us – exactly what we need.

A simple question then arises.  When given such a gift – priceless and so carefully chosen – just how do you respond?

May you know and respond to God’s love this Christmas.