Christmas is a time of giving. It is a celebration of the most wonderful gift to mankind, God’s gift of hope through the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ. The baby Jesus was born over two thousand years ago in squalor, was persecuted by a murderous tyrant, and became a refugee. What a start in life for the Son of God! He made himself hugely vulnerable, and He did this because He loves us more than we can possibly understand. Human love is a funny thing; it cannot survive in a vacuum, so to speak; love that is not returned withers and dies. The incredible thing is that God’s love for us will never die.

Jesus survived the most appalling start in life, grew into the greatest teacher ever known, and at the end of His time on earth, He called his disciples to get up, go, and do his work of living and teaching the Gospel story (and we still continue with that mission of discipleship; see the article on vocation ‘Being You’, later in this edition of The Hambledonian). The Gospel story has been an inspiration for two thousand years; it has survived all manner of human challenge and corruption, and is still as relevant today as it was in Jesus’ time. It forms the perfect life-guide for all people. Who on earth would not want that?

Like all gifts, there are two (or more) parties. There is the giver, someone who wants to make the gift. Mostly gifts are unconditional, given out of natural love and affection, with the hope they will please the person to whom the gift is offered. On a few occasions the gift is conditional, meaning that in order to benefit from the gift, certain things have to happen, typically to encourage particular behaviour or thinking; so for instance someone making a gift to a charity might want to achieve a desired objective or outcome. Generally speaking we feel good about the making of a gift, it is an act of generosity, and puts the donor in a state of grace.

Then there is the receiver of the gift. The making of a gift cannot be complete without the receiver being willing to accept it. Mostly we are more than eager to accept a gift, why wouldn’t we? But it isn’t always easy to accept a gift; there may be a history involved, which can complicate life; the receipt may place the donee under a moral obligation. It requires a positive step, the expression of a willingness to accept something from another person. Thus there is a grace in receiving a gift as well.

With the season of Advent, which starts at the beginning of December, we wait and prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas. It sounds odd, because we are waiting quietly and expectantly, but this is an important part of our preparation for what is to come. It is a very positive period in the church calendar, a spiritual re-nourishing, preparing us for the joy of the nativity of Jesus.

And then, wham, at the end of December we will join with friends and family to celebrate Christmas, the beginning of a new year, and the expectation of fresh growth after the winter months. Above all we will be celebrating God’s perfect gift of His only Son. It is the offer of a gift of unconditional love. We have free will so we can choose whether to accept or reject the gift. If we accept the gift, and acknowledge the baby Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we are assured of life after death. That ultimately is the gift God is offering; the gift is of hope.

The question we have to ask ourselves is, are we willing to accept the offer of the greatest gift of all time? To do so requires a positive commitment by us. It is not passive, a shrug of the shoulders and a kind of “I suppose so”. If we are serious, if we truly believe, then take the next step, commit, and tell God you love Him. Like the disciples, get up, go, and do…

Christmas is the perfect time to think about what it all means; what is my relationship with God; do I believe in Him? Do I love Him? Make an informed decision, with God’s love.

And finally, we send our readers the love and best wishes of all the people of St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Hambledon at this most wonderful season of Christmas, and the hope for a peaceful New Year.

Rachel Houlberg
Robert Solomon