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Gifts and the Giver

What do you want for Christmas?

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To explore our understanding of giving and receiving at Christmas.

Preparation and materials

Assembly

  1. What would you like for Christmas? I know what I’d like. I havent written anything down, but Ive got a list in my head. Im pretty sure I know some of the presents that Ill be given because theyre the same every year. (You may wish to give some personal examples.)

    Some people have no imagination when it comes to presents, but its the thought that counts, isnt it? There are other gifts that I hope will arrive because Ive been dropping hints for months. I really want to find out whether anyones been listening. Then there are the gifts that I would love most of all, but I dont think theres much chance of them arriving. Its not that Im extravagant exactly, but I do have some very personal tastes. Do you feel the same?

  2. Its hard not to feel disappointed sometimes at Christmas. Maybe its because we know that little effort has been put into choosing the right present for us. Maybe its because we know that, even though theyd love to, our family, carers or friends cant afford to give us what they know wed love. Maybe its because theres no present at all. We still have to put on a smile and act as if nothing is the matter.

  3. 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’. Wed want to respond to the request by giving the person what we know they want: its 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 its 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 its Christmas or not.

    Pause to allow time for thought.

Time for reflection

Of course, I don’t know your feelings about God. Maybe you dont 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, lets go back to the original question: ‘What would you like for Christmas?’

Im thinking of gifts that really last, not ones that will break down, go out of fashion or need constant recharging. Lets be imaginative and honest with our requests. We could go for the standard cliché: ‘peace, love and freedom throughout the world’. Of course, theres nothing wrong with that idea, but it doesnt relate well to the daily lives that we live with those around us. Its too general. So, lets 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 were 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?

Prayer
Dear Lord,
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.
Amen.

Song/music

‘Whatever you want’ by Status Quo, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7-z4Dz5ZU4 (4.21 minutes long)

Publication date: December 2019   (Vol.21 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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