Christmas is a time for generosity and goodwill. This season can draw the best out of all of us. In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol even the grumpy and self-centred miser, Ebeneezer Scrooge, discovered that great joy and delight could flow from sharing good things with others at Christmas.
The moment when gifts are exchanged on Christmas morning, with all the excitement and expectation that that entails, is a central part of the day. Often much thought and effort – not to mention cost – have gone into choosing the right gift, and we discover that it can be more blessed to give than to receive.
It’s two thousand years since the first Christmas gifts were exchanged. In Matthew’s Gospel, we read how the Magi followed a star that led them to the Saviour’s birthplace. When they found the baby Jesus, they were overjoyed. They bowed down and worshipped him. And they presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Recapturing the wonderment that the Magi felt at Christ’s birth is central to our candlelit carol singing and our Christmas worship. The Magi were among the first people to recognise that something highly significant had happened in the arrival of this child; a momentous gift had been given by God to humankind. And the Magi responded with worship and generosity.
Years later, Jesus spoke of the gift he wanted to give to all of his followers, not only on one day of the year, but every day: ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’ There is remarkable generosity and goodwill in his gift of inner peace and freedom from fear.
There are many in our world who are troubled and who are afraid for all sorts of reasons. We remember them especially at this time of year and we use the opportunity to give generously to ease their burden. Keep them in your prayers, please.
Yes, the generosity of Christmas presents counts for so much in this season of generosity and goodwill, and yet Christ’s presence in our lives matters far, far more. That’s the greatest gift that any of us can receive.
My hope this Christmas is that, just like the Magi, in finding the baby Jesus we will discover the peace of Christ. His Christmas presence is a life-changer, forever.