HALFWAY through the evening, there was a change in the programme. Members of Inchbrayock’s youth club, the 1010 Club had been hard at work, decorating shoeboxes for Blythswood’s Christmas appeal. Now it was time for TFL, the ‘Thought for Life’ slot.
If ever the youngsters wondered if their evening’s efforts had been worthwhile, that TFL would have convinced them. They watched a DVD which tracked a consignment of shoeboxes from Scotland to deprived communities in Eastern Europe and showed the boxes being handed over. The reactions of those receiving the gifts were striking. Whether they were young children from poor homes or elderly people living in hardship, they reacted to the boxes with delight and gratitude.
That brought a question to mind. ‘How do we react to the gifts we get?’
There is no one answer to that. Of course, there should be - common courtesy dictates that a gift should always be followed by thanks - but it doesn’t always work out like that. I remember one of my earliest Christmases with embarrassment because of my petulant outburst when I opened the parcel containing my 7th diary. I suspect, however, that I’m not the only one who has displayed ingratitude at the receipt of a well-meaning gift.
But beyond that, there is a range of reactions, often age-related.
For young people, it’s the gift which counts. The youngest tend to focus on size and appearance - the bigger, the more colourful, the better. For teenagers, the burning question often is ‘Will this keep me on a par with my friends? ‘
For those at the other end of the age spectrum the focus is less on the gift, more on the giver. A mum will be thrilled by a modest gift from a young child if she knows that it was bought with saved-up pocket money. A grandparent will be delighted to overlook any imperfections in a grandchild’s gift knowing it was handmade, with love.
To grasp what Christmas really is all about, we need to focus on giver and gift - on God, a generous giver, and on Jesus, his gift for everyone. In sending Jesus to live on Earth, God gave us the most valuable and practical gift he could. For we are faced with a life which can seem to be puzzling and meaningless and which often is challenging and even harsh. What better gifts could we receive, then, than Jesus’ teaching, explaining God’s plan for our lives, Jesus’ example, showing us how to live, and the hope Jesus gives us, pointing to a better life beyond this one?
Jesus is the best of all Christmas gifts, well worth ‘unwrapping’ and exploring.
Inchbrayock Parish Church