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All About the Presents?

The true meaning of Christmas

by James Lamont

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To encourage students to consider that time spent with family and friends is more important than presents at Christmas.

Preparation and materials

  • Optional: images to tie in with the countries named in point 1.

Assembly

1. Christmas is celebrated in different ways around the world. The Christmas tree came originally from Germany. In Japan, turkey is avoided in favour of Kentucky Fried Chicken. In Australia, where Christmas falls in the middle of summer, one might go to the beach or have a barbeque. In Russia, because of its different calendar, Christmas is celebrated on 7 July. Yet in all rich countries around the world Christmas is associated with one thing: presents.

2. The image of Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, handing out gifts to excited children is more common in many countries than that of Jesus in the manger. Presents and advertising are everywhere. From the day after Halloween until the end of the January sales, shops and retailers prepare to make money. It was estimated that British consumers spent £350 each on Christmas presents in 2014. This sounds like a lot, but compare it to the amount spent by Romanians. Each Romanian, on average, spent €110 - one third of the average monthly salary - on Christmas gifts. Spending on Christmas presents is a vital part of the retail business and an essential part of national economies.

3. While this generosity must be applauded, it causes one to stop and think. Christmas is a huge expense: there are not just presents to buy, but food, drinks, decorations and travel. This causes stress and pressure. The dream of a perfect Christmas, with snow, happy children, and a big pile of presents under a beautiful tree, is often just that - a dream. The reality is tired parents, hyperactive children, rain, and too much food and drink.

4. Advertising and films portray a perfect Christmas, but such high expectations simply create more chances for disappointment. Spending more and more money on fancy presents does not always lead to a fantastic Christmas. Instead, spending more time with people is the season's true meaning. Christmas belongs to family, to friends, and to the lonely and unfortunate as much as it does to the presents under the tree. Time spent together is the greatest gift.

Time for reflection

What are our priorities at Christmas?
Are there people that we should be showing that we care?

Prayer
Lord,
Thank you for Christmas.
Thank you for our families.
Thank you for our friends.
Please help us to focus our lives on the things that truely matter.
Amen.

Publication date: December 2015   (Vol.17 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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