“You’ll never guess what Santa brought, a train set” the young boy tells his grandad early Christmas morning in the television advertisement. I think it’s an ad. for Barry’s Tea, but it always gets my vote for the best and simplest Christmas message.
Christmas is a time for gift-giving. Children, like that little boy in the television ad., are attracted by the gifts; we all are. But we also need to be attracted to the crib, to the Christmas creche, where we will learn the message that God’s greatest gift to us is His Son. Whatever we receive this Christmas, we will be very grateful for; but the gift that will last the longest is the knowledge and realisation that we are loved, cherished and held by God.
To understand Christmas we have to understand the language of God, the greatest gift-giver. We find the language of God as we look into the crib. The inn-keeper closed one door but left the stable door ajar, enough for Mary and Joseph to squeeze through, exhausted by the census journey. The empty manger has been filled. God’s gift comes not in tinsel and glitter but “wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk. 2:12). God speaks to us from that manger, in the simplest of languages; we are the ones who too often complicate that message.
Christmas brings out the best in all of us. It’s a busy time, it’s a hectic time, but we wouldn’t want it any different. I am so impressed by how the commercialisation of Christmas is matched by the generosity in giving to those in need: the Society of St. Vincent de Paul with their outreach in every parish, the local food kitchens, the Ukrainian appeals, support for Trócaire as it enters its fiftieth year and the many other causes that command our attention these days. Christmas brings out the best in all of us. As much as is spent in gifts, a huge amount is generously donated to charities.
And every gift doesn’t necessarily cost hard-earned money, such as the gift of generosity, so obvious in the great response to those charitable appeals. Christmas is a celebration centred on generosity, God generously sharing with us His Son. The gift of time, spending time with those close to us is a precious gift, enjoying one another’s company. The gift of kindness, words used to heal rather than hurt.
Christmas doesn’t have to be complicated. The message is simple, like the boy’s train set. The message that God’s greatest gift to us is His Son Jesus, and that’s a gift that keeps on giving all year round.
May the peace and joy of Christmas be in your heart and every good wish and blessing for 2023.