I’m writing this letter the day before Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Chancellor Jeremy Hunt reveal their Autumn Statement, and many people are wondering about how they will be affected by their policies. The three wise men may have been able to afford their extravagant gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but for many the ‘cost of living’ crisis currently fuelled by higher energy prices, high inflation and fewer resources has meant that Christmas is rapidly losing its sparkle. A recent survey suggests that 42% of people are worried about how they will pay for Christmas this year compared to previous years and the media is full of sad stories and advice on how people can make ends meet. Martin Lewis, the Money Savings Expert states that most people start from the wrong place; “They have a perfect Christmas pictured in their mind of everything that they want and exactly how it is going to be, and then they try and work out how they can do it. Please don’t do that. That’s likely to lead to debt and disappointment. Decide on how much you are going to spend on Christmas this year and stick to it.”
The Christian will be aware that although presents are nice, Christmas is not really about presents at all, but about a God who loved the world so much that he freely stepped out of the majesty of heaven, becoming as the ‘Son of God’ a man born in Bethlehem to poor parents. He did this, so that we ‘as poor as we are’ might get to know him in a deeper, better and more profound way, trusting that his love, (ultimately demonstrated for us by his death on the cross) might not only lead to our salvation and the forgiveness of our sins but offer us a better, brighter and more positive future, for as the Apostle Paul once said ‘for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich’ (2 Corinthians 8.9).
Yes, the wise men may have offered Jesus expensive gifts as part of their worship, but in truth Christmas is really all about God’s good gift in Christ to us – and so on his birthday, what might he want most of all? An expensive lavish present? Not at all! He simply wants to be your friend as you put your faith and trust in him.
It’s a gift that grows with the receiving, each day becoming more and more satisfying as we come to appreciate and learn just what God has done for us in the person of Christ.
It is my hope that you will all have a really lovely Christmas with your respective families and friends, but not allow the finances to get in the way of your celebrations, but simply rejoice in each other’s company as God in love and ‘in Christ’ rejoices in you.
May I on behalf of my family and all the parishes I represent wish you all a very happy Christmas and a worry free, peaceful new year.
What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb;
if I were a wise man I would do my part;
yet what I can I give him – give my heart.
From ‘In the bleak mid winter’ by Christina Rossetti