Christmas Day has been and gone, but we are probably still surrounded by the many presents we unwrapped on the big day. Maybe we’ve already started writing the thank-you cards, typing appreciative emails or making social phone calls. We will have true pleasure in sending most of these messages, as the gift we’ve received means a lot to us – thoughtfully chosen, a wonderful surprise, or something we’d really been hoping for.
Sometimes, though, we might have to pick our words of thanks rather carefully, as what we have been given is just not to our taste, or perhaps even a complete embarrassment. One is reminded of a line in John Betjeman’s seasonal poem: … the ‘hideous tie, so kindly meant’. I always think the phrase ‘unwanted gifts’, which crops up at this time of the year, has a sad ring about it. A recent national survey found that over 50% of us receive at least one unwanted present, and that their total value across the country runs into billions. Such presents are sometimes kept out of politeness, but others are re-gifted, returned in-store, donated to charity, or at worst binned.
For the Christian, the greatest gift of all is the babe in the manger, the Son of Almighty God himself. It’s up to us as to what we make of this – whether we accept such a gift of love with heartfelt gratitude, or whether it is regarded as something unwanted. At one end of the scale it can mean everything to us, at the other extreme it could mean nothing at all.
As Jesus grew up, he continued the giving: he gave his life in service to others, and finally gave that life on the cross for the sake of humanity. That became the key to the ultimate gift, beyond our present experience. In our Bibles we can read these simple yet profound words of the Apostle Paul, ‘the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ It is often said that there is more happiness in giving than in receiving, and the Lord Jesus reassures all who would follow him that ‘it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.’
So we might take the opportunity to ask ourselves whether we gratefully accept God’s gifts to us, or discard them as unwanted. Mulling it over might lead to a new dimension in life. What do you really, really want?