A gift we don’t deserve


It is a fact that most people expect a Christmas box at Christmastime. What on earth for? Nothing could be further from the truth than that one has deserved it. It is really just an extra amount of money to pay off credit card debts or to indulge in this festive season.

At the birth of a baby it is customary for friends and family to present the mother with a useful gift. She is already overwhelmed and radiant at the joy of the gift of new life. Gift-giving is synonymous with birth. And so it was at the birth of Jesus. The wise men came bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

It is almost trite to say that Christmas has been hijacked by the commercial world. Millions of rands exchange hands and businesses laugh all the way to the bank. Even the Church has taken on the bells and whistles of Christmas—many churches are decorated with Christmas trees and artificial snow and lights.

We need to reclaim the central message of Christmas. The birth of Christ is God’s gift to us—something we did not deserve.

God our Father was the first gift-giver and he chose to focus our attention on the simplicity and poverty of the scene.

Jesus was born in a simple shack. Sadly, we tend to leave him there and forget that he continues to be born in our world amongst the poor, the ragpickers and squatters.

But even the “haves” of this world are desperately poor and needy. Indeed, some of the unhappiest people are among the rich.

The truth is that the Gospel continues to be written today, even though we don’t want to think about it and keep harping back to the original birth of Christ.

Thanks be to God, there are people who respond like the Wise Men. Our world is constantly in need of help and we are challenged to open our eyes and respond in bringing Good News to the people of our time.

And so it is that Christmas is a time of Good News, of gift giving, of bringing joy to others.

It’s a time of opening our eyes to the needs of others and not to be looking forward to money for covering our debts.

No surprise therefore that groups like the Missionaries of Charity lay the table for ragpickers.

Radio Veritas, South Africa’s Catholic station, is calling on people to bring a gift to the radio station to be placed at the crib, or donate a sum of money, all of which will be given to groups such as Nazareth House, the TLC home for children and other needy causes.

And all this will bring a tremendous amount of joy to the little people of this world, something which ultimately takes on a new meaning when we remember that “what you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me”.

Yes, Christmas is a challenge to turn our backs on selfishness and to notice the lonely, the needy and the little ones of this world. This is what evangelising is all about in practical terms.

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