Somewhere in Bethlehem a child is born. As with most births the parents have visitors, people who have come to see the miracle of a new life.
Matthew says that wise men come from far-off lands – rich men, foreigners. Luke tells us that shepherds visit – poor folk, locals. Rich or poor, they all bring with them gifts for the child. The wealthy foreigners bring gold and perfumes, fit for a king; the poor locals probably bring nothing more than their interest and curiosity.
The story goes that, as they lay their gifts before this child, they realise that they too are receiving a gift. A mysterious, joyful gift from God. For that’s what this child is. A gift from God, big enough to be shared by all who come to visit.
The gift was shared by the shepherds and wise men once upon a time; it is shared by all of us here and now. God’s gift is one which shows unqualified, unsurpassable love for all human beings and for all creation.
This Christmas Day we will give and receive gifts from one another. Large or small, numerous or few, expensive or not, is beside the point. What the gifts symbolise is of far more important that what they actually are.
Our gifts are symbols our love for each other. And our gifts are symbols of that first gift made by God to all of us – they are mere shadows of that gift. For in the gift of the life of this child Jesus, God showed that he loves us, that he is with us ... always.
As we offer gifts this Christmas, may we hold on to the love they represent - love human, and divine. 'It's the thought that counts' we say – and that really is true.
Merry Christmas to you all.