Pastor Tim Smith: The gift that keeps on giving
- Credit: Archant
Have you got all your Christmas present shopping sorted yet?
A friend of mine begins getting her seasonal gifts in January, whereas I’m more used to the last-minute rush and panic that’s unique to Christmas Eve.
According to toy industry experts, the must-have toys on children’s present lists this year include Star Wars Baby Yoda, the LEGO Gingerbread House, and Gotta Go Flamingo – a purple bird called Sherbet that comes with its own toilet!
When I think way back to my own childhood, one of the earliest presents I remember getting excited about when I was around five years old was a game called KerPlunk.
A ‘tantalising game of nerve and skill’ was the description of it on the box, although as I recall, the object of the game was simply making sure I ended up with less marbles in my tray than my brother!
A couple of years later the toy I really wanted, and got, was called Crossfire. But on Christmas Day my Uncle John seemed to get more enjoyment out of it than me because when we played ‘winner stays on’ he ended the day undefeated.
Of course, the pleasure I got from those games, although real, didn’t last. I’ve still got KerPlunk, but it has sat in our loft gathering dust for years; Crossfire was thrown out a long time ago.
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Back in the early 1920s the Victor Talking Machine Company in America were a key manufacturer of early gramophones, and to emphasise the durability of their product they coined the advertising slogan, ‘The Gift That Keeps on Giving’.
There aren’t many presents that would earn that title today, in our disposable consumer culture.
Most of the stuff I will receive this Christmas I imagine will be read or eaten by the end of January, except for the brown socks!
But the giving and receiving that takes place at every yuletide remains a tangible reminder that at the heart of the Biblical story of Christmas is a gift that Christians believe has long-lasting value and a life-enhancing impact.
In perhaps the most well-known verse in the Bible, John 3:16, Jesus reminds us that as the ultimate expression of his love for ordinary people, God gave us all he could: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
On one occasion, according to Matthew’s gospel, a person who seemed to have all he needed for prosperous living (the Bible says he was young, rich and powerful) came and asked Jesus: “What must I do to receive eternal life?”
The same phrase that both Jesus and the rich man use – ‘eternal life’ - refers not so much to the quantity, but rather to a quality of life.
Elsewhere in the gospels, Jesus addresses this issue by telling his followers in John 10:10: “I have come that you might have life – life in all its fulness.”
The Bible would seem to suggest that there is something essential we need for our everyday lives that can’t be found anywhere else than in the person whose birth we celebrate every December 25.
The American poet Annie Johnson Flint, born on Christmas Eve 1886, experienced more than her fair share of struggles and trials, suffering for most of her years with crippling arthritis.
In her poem ‘What God Has Promised’, she writes from her own experience of all that she has received from God in the gift of his son, to enable her to face the difficulties of daily living:
God has not promised,
sun without rain, joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
God has not promised,
smooth roads and wide, swift, easy travel, needing no guide,
never a mountain rocky and steep, never a river turbid and deep.
but God has promised,
strength for the day, rest for the labour, light for the way,
grace for the trials, help from above, unfailing sympathy, undying love.