Your greatest Christmas gift may have been yourself
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What was the greatest gift you gave over Christmas? The Rev Susanna Gunner says it might be not be wrapped in paper...
You'll be reading this after Christmas but I am writing it a few weeks beforehand. My kitchen table is buried under gifts that still need wrapping and the paper that will eventually wrap them. And somewhere hiding underneath all that are scissors and Sellotape. Oh yes, and lists! Many lists.
But you are through with all that and have come out the other side! I wonder what you are feeling now… Satisfied? Pleased at the way your presents were received? Thrilled with everything you were given? Or a bit jaded by the whole experience and wondering what the wrapping and unwrapping frenzy was all in aid of?
I recently came across a beautifully-illustrated children's book called The Best Present (Bingham and Beardshaw). The story line is simple and powerful and it made me think. On his way to visit his Grandma, Little Bear decides to find her a present. As he walks, he picks up a leaf, a flower, a feather. But, one by one, he loses all these gifts along the way. Then Little Bear cups his paws around one of the snowflakes floating magically down from the sky. 'This will be the best present of all!' he thinks.
Imagine how sad he is when, opening his paws at his Grandma's house, he discovers nothing but a drop of water. But his grandmother is wise. Holding him close, she tells him that the best present of all is… him!
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In journeying to see his Grandma, Little Bear gave her himself. And that was what she really wanted. The story gently reminds us that giving ourselves to each other trumps even the most expensive gifts. Being fully present to someone else is priceless. And, though it's undeniably harder than buying something, it's a gift we can give all year round. It also, in some small way, mirrors the self-giving of God.
These days of Christmas remind us of the way God journeys to visit us. He brings the indescribable gift of himself – a gift wrapped not in paper but in swaddling bands. And this gift does not melt away after Christmas like a snowflake in a warm paw but steadily waits and lovingly hopes for our response.
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The Rev Susanna Gunner is Chaplain to the Bishop of Norwich