I have been silent for the last month because I was so busy giving out Christmas gifts. First we held an event for the sponsored children. The children gathered, very excited, at the village hall, joined in the games with gusto listened attentively to the talk I had prepared, and then happily each received their bag of gifts. Refreshments finished our time together.
The next day, I held the nativity play for the Girls´ Brigade girls. They loved dressing up and performing for their parents. They also each received a gift and a bag of sweets.
The following two days I visited six local schools giving out more gifts to the primary school children. It was great fun to see their eyes light up as they received their gifts and tried them on or read them.
The children valued their gifts because they receive very little at Christmas – or at any other time of the year. Some of their gifts, and the cakes and treats were made by the local sewing group. These women value the work I am able to put their way in this manner, and also the chance to learn new sewing and baking skills.
My talk this year was about the gifts the wise men took to Jesus. Hardly any of the children could tell me what the gifts were – let alone what they meant. I explained the gold was in recognition that Jesus is king, frankincense in recognition of his divinity and that myrrh anticipated his death which brought us salvation.
We then had a beautiful family Christmas, celebrating with our extended family and close friends. We ate our ham, accompanied by rice, outside in the heat on Christmas Eve night, with the singing of carols in Spanish and readings from the Christmas story. Of course, there were gifts exchanged amongst us too, especially for the children.
The festive season was tainted with sadness too, as is the way in this damaged world of ours. I found myself writing the death certificate for an elderly neighbour and hearing of the tragic death of the son of one of the teachers in our most local school. He died in a motorbike accident.
Often we ask, “What was your best present this year?” As I reflect on the gifts given and received this Christmas and indeed at other times of the year, I conclude the best gift of all is one I usually take for granted; the gift of another day of life.
As we enter the New Year, may I remember to give thanks for that simple and yet most precious gift of God each and every day.