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For what we are about to receive

Christmas gratitude

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To encourage students to consider the personal implications of God’s gift in Jesus (SEAL theme: Self-awareness).

Preparation and materials

  • You will need three readers.
  • Wrap a Christmas present.
  • Have available ‘Sweet Bells’ by Kate Rusby and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.


  1. Leader Show wrapped Christmas present.

    How much control do you like to have over what you’re given for Christmas?

    Reader 1  Well before Christmas, I draw up a long list of what I’d like to be given. There are one or two big items that I hope someone very generous will get me, but I also include loads of small things so there’s no reason for anyone to be stuck for choice. It means I’m never given anything I don’t want.

    Reader 2  Personally, I’d rather have the money. That puts me in total control and means I can take advantage of the sales that begin straight after Christmas. What’s the point in someone paying twice the price when I can get a bargain?

    Reader 3  I prefer the personal touch. I’d rather someone put some effort of their own into choosing for me. It shows what I mean to them. OK it can be a bit risky. I’ve got some items of clothing I’d never have chosen myself and other people sometimes get my taste in music a little wrong, but it’s worth it to know that time and effort have gone into what I’ve been given.

  2. Leader Christmas started a long time ago. It began with a nation of people who had a long list of what they wanted from their God. The Jews were a once proud people who’d fallen on hard times. Their country was occupied by the Romans. They were forced to pay taxes to Caesar, to provide labour for the projects of their puppet ruler, Herod, and conform to every corrupt expectation of the occupying troops. 

    Their response was to cry to their God for a leader. He was given the title the Messiah. The job description of the Messiah was to be a just ruler and a powerful leader, someone who would enable them to rise up in rebellion and expel the Roman invaders from their land. This was the Christmas list drawn up by many of the Jewish people.

    There were other Jews who took a more spiritual view. They prayed to God for someone who was holy, a priest who could lead them into truth and right living. They knew God had given them the Commandments to obey and wanted someone who would emphasize the importance of adhering to this set of rules. If they could get this right then everything else they wanted as a nation would follow. Some, known as Pharisees, tended to be concerned with keeping God’s Commandments to the ultimate degree.

    Finally, there were those who were content to allow God to make the choice. They believed that God knew his people intimately and had done so for many centuries. They believed that there would come a day when God would send the Messiah, but they were willing for God to decide on who that might be and what he might do.

    What they got was Jesus. For many he wasn’t what they’d asked for. 

    Is Jesus on your Christmas list? I somehow doubt it for most of you. Why? Probably because he doesn’t seem relevant to your life, your wants, your hopes and ambitions. If possible, you’d choose a Christmas without any mention of him at all.

Time for reflection

Leader  Have you ever received a surprise present, one you never expected, from someone you’d totally forgotten about? Just imagine opening it to reveal the perfect gift, what you’ve always wanted but never dared ask for, a present that showed such intimate knowledge of who you are and what you most desire. Just imagine it.

Christians believe that God the Father knows us in such a way. That’s why he sent Jesus that first Christmas – to bring freedom, to bring truth, to bring forgiveness, to bring guidance, to bring healing, to bring life in its most complete sense. Jesus is God’s perfect surprise gift.

Show the wrapped present again.

So often, though, Jesus is the gift that remains unwrapped. Many of us ignore the mention of Jesus as much as possible.

So, how could we unwrap Jesus this Christmas? Probably the best way is simply to read the story of his life. It will only take an hour of your time and you have a choice of four different versions in the Gospels. Luke’s Gospel is probably the best one to start with at Christmas. It may be the surprise gift you’re glad you didn’t leave unopened. 

Dear Lord,
Thank you for the gift of Jesus.
May we spend some time this Christmas exploring who he was and is.
May we be open to being surprised.


‘Sweet Bells’ by Kate Rusby

Publication date: December 2013   (Vol.15 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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