Gifts and the Giver
What do you want for Christmas?
by Brian Radcliffe
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To explore our understanding of giving and receiving at Christmas.
Preparation and materials
- You will need the words of Jesus that are found in Matthew 7.9-11. They are available at: https://tinyurl.com/y59b94uy
- What would you like for Christmas? I know what I’d like. I haven’t written anything down, but I’ve got a list in my head. I’m pretty sure I know some of the presents that I’ll be given because they’re the same every year. (You may wish to give some personal examples.)
Some people have no imagination when it comes to presents, but it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it? There are other gifts that I hope will arrive because I’ve been dropping hints for months. I really want to find out whether anyone’s been listening. Then there are the gifts that I would love most of all, but I don’t think there’s much chance of them arriving. It’s not that I’m extravagant exactly, but I do have some very personal tastes. Do you feel the same?
- It’s hard not to feel disappointed sometimes at Christmas. Maybe it’s because we know that little effort has been put into choosing the right present for us. Maybe it’s because we know that, even though they’d love to, our family, carers or friends can’t afford to give us what they know we’d love. Maybe it’s because there’s no present at all. We still have to put on a smile and act as if nothing is the matter.
- In the Bible, Jesus tells an odd story about gifts. He starts by talking about gifts that are rather like practical jokes. In Matthew 7.9-10, Jesus says, ‘If we know that someone wants a loaf of bread, would we give them a nice round stone instead? If we know that someone wants a fish, would we give them a snake?’
The answer to both questions is obviously ‘No’. We’d want to respond to the request by giving the person what we know they want: it’s human nature. It would be pretty mean to play the practical joke on them.
In Matthew 7.11, Jesus goes on to say that if it’s our human nature to want to please those whom we know and love, just imagine the gifts that God wants to lavish on you and me! We can ask him, whether it’s Christmas or not.
Pause to allow time for thought.
Time for reflection
Of course, I don’t know your feelings about God. Maybe you don’t believe that he exists. Maybe you think that there is no supernatural element in the world. Maybe you think that God is a figment of our imagination, like Father Christmas.
Alternatively, maybe you believe that he exists, but you imagine him being like a judge, ready to tick us off when we go wrong. Maybe you see him as a spectator, looking on at us, never getting involved. However, the picture that Jesus paints in his strange story is rather different. Jesus portrays God as someone who wants to please us, get to know us and give us the gifts that we long for. Jesus’ God wants to respond to us when we ask him.
So, let’s go back to the original question: ‘What would you like for Christmas?’
I’m thinking of gifts that really last, not ones that will break down, go out of fashion or need constant recharging. Let’s be imaginative and honest with our requests. We could go for the standard cliché: ‘peace, love and freedom throughout the world’. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that idea, but it doesn’t relate well to the daily lives that we live with those around us. It’s too general. So, let’s be more specific.
- Peace. Peace can come between people whom you know and live with. Why not start your list by thinking about a broken relationship that needs mending? It could be between adults, between children or between the two. This Christmas, could we help restore that peace?
- Love. Love can be about letting someone know that they are valued, missed, needed, part of the team. This Christmas, could we help to make someone we know feel like this?
- Freedom. People need to be set free: from responsibilities, blame, expectations, demands or anything that holds them back. This Christmas, could we help someone we know to be set free?
Our picture of God may not be the same as the one that Jesus paints, but we can still bring peace to a broken relationship. We can offer love to someone who has a poor self-image. We can set people free from anything that we’re pressuring them to do.
If our Christmas list held these items, it would be a good list to put before God, to ask him to help us with it.
Pause to allow time for thought.
So, for one last time, what would you like for Christmas?
Thank you for the pleasure of giving and receiving gifts.
Remind us of the simple gifts of peace, love and freedom that we can offer to those around us.
Please help these to be central to each of our Christmases this year.
‘Whatever you want’ by Status Quo, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7-z4Dz5ZU4 (4.21 minutes long)