The Rev. Helen Kempster writes

  In 2020, on the first Monday in December, known as Cyber Monday, the sum of £5,988,444,539 was spent on internet shopping in the UK. It was the most lucrative day ever in British on-line shopping history. In a single minute of that day, we Britons spent £4,158,642 on the internet.


  A great deal of that huge sum will have been spent on Christmas presents and celebrations. And I wonder how much of that money was spent on gifts that the person receiving actually wanted, let alone needed, and how much ended up discarded. It’s so difficult to know what to buy isn’t it? Even when you’ve got a list. And many of us don’t actually know what we want anyway, hoping instead that those buying for us will have a brilliant idea and pick us the most amazingly perfect gift and just what we wanted – even though we hadn’t thought of it.


  But, in spite of the expense and the consumerism of this season of the year, it is good

to give presents at Christmas. The giving of gifts in its purest form is an expression

of love. That old truism that ‘it’s the thought that counts’ is spot on. It’s important to put

thought into what to give someone, but at the end of the day, it’s the fact that you care

enough about them to give them anything at all that is worth the most.


  Christmas is of course when we celebrate the greatest gift any of us have ever received. A baby was born in Bethlehem. God’s gift of Jesus to us is the most perfect example of the gift that we may not have known we wanted but was actually just what we needed – even though we hadn’t thought of it.


  And, as with all the best gifts, God’s sole motive for giving is one of love. But in this case, it isn’t just the thought that counts. The gift itself could not be more perfect for all of us – or more costly to the one who gave it.


  Christmas has become hugely popular. An enormous amount of tradition has become attached to it, and it is not all purely commercial. There’s a seasonal increase in friendliness and generosity, a giving to charity and a remembering of people less fortunate than ourselves; there is a coming to church and an awareness, or a remembrance, of God.


  Thousands of visitors pass through church doors everywhere in the Christmas season, coming to one of the special services. But where are the crowds on ordinary Sundays in the year? I wish, as I’m sure we all do every year, that we could say something or do something or offer our visitors something that would bring them back before next Christmas because unless they come back, unless they can find the sequel to the Nativity stories, unless they see the rest of the picture, they won’t be able to put the Christmas stories into perspective – because it’s the rest of the story of Jesus Christ which makes sense of the Nativity stories. It is his death and resurrection that gives meaning to everything. That’s the real starting point.


  The rest of the story of Jesus is about the love God has for us. This is the wonderful meaning and mystery of Christmas. No one need stay only in the stable. There is so much more to enjoy. It would be easy to say that it’s the end of the story which gives meaning and importance to the beginning but, of course there isn’t any end. Jesus didn’t come for the day 2,000 years ago. He didn’t even just come for his own brief lifetime. Jesus came forever and is with us always. That is part of the wonderful meaning of Christmas.


  Christmas is only the beginning. What happened at the moment when Jesus was born and God became one of us, is happening still. Let’s rejoice this Christmastide that, in Jesus, the love of God came to earth, to us, forever, and in the man who grew from that baby is to be found all the love God has for us.


With love and prayer

Helen Kempster

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