As this year’s shopping frenzy and the countdown to Christmas draws to a close, I’m reminded of many of my daughter’s birthday parties from when she was a child. She was always keen to invite as many of her classmates as possible to the party. This was not because she was friends with all of them, but purely on the basis that each child would bring with them a gift – the more guests, therefore, the more gifts she would receive! While there was no faulting her logic, it was obvious that she was more interested in their presents than their presence.
The first Christmas was all about presence, the Apostle John writing in his gospel about Jesus, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Sadly, however, in our consumer-driven society this essential truth has become supplanted by the need to buy presents. Nothing wrong with that in itself of course, but we run the risk of creating a shallow and empty festival. Often the presents we receive aren’t the ones we wanted, and inevitably they will be lost, broken or wear out; and when they do what we will be left with? An empty space where the presents once were, or the continuing presence of the One about whom it was all about in the first place?