The three (alternative) Christmas gifts
At Christmas, we think of the wise men who brought three gifts.
I would like to imagine that tomorrow when you have opened all your gifts, you see that there are still 3 gifts left under the Christmas tree. You don’t know where they came from, but they have your name on them.
So you open the first gift, and inside you find
1. The most astonishingly wonderful and precious ring:
When we went to the orphanage in Zimbabwe earlier this year, we had a bit of a wait at Heathrow. So two of us entertained ourselves by wandering round the jewellery shops trying to find the most expensive item on display. We got some very odd looks. The winner was a watch which cost about £31k
That watch has nothing on this ring. This ring holds a stone, and the stone is spherical. It is predominantly blue, but there are dashes of green, brown and orange, covered with whispers of white. When you look closer there is the most incredible detail. The stone seems to be suspended above the ring and is rotating. You have no idea how it works, and you know that some of your friends will spend hour after hour trying to work it out. But it is beautiful, magical and obviously unbelievably expensive.
You put the ring on. It fits exactly. There is something so right about this ring and you. You go together. It was almost as if you were made for each other. Whoever gave you this ring, and you have no idea who they are, clearly knows you and has given you something incredibly precious.
So you turn to the second gift. The wrapping paper is different, but there is something about this gift which makes you think it is from the same person.
2. A very old book: it has one of those old hard covers, and the pages are slightly brown.
So you open it carefully. Inside the front cover is a hand written note. ‘To (and then there is your name) with love from the author’. And there is a P.S: ‘p.s. I wrote this for you’.
You start to flick through it. At first you think, ‘What’s this got to do with me?’ It is written in an old language. It is understandable, but you’ve got to work to understand it. As you flick through, you read passages that don’t make much sense, passages that are boring and passages that are just strange.
You are very tempted to look at the ring and forget the book. You can always put it on the bookshelf and after a decent time give it away to the charity shop. But then you look at the ring and you think, ‘Why would the person who gave me this, also give me such an uninspiring gift?’
So you take a second look. You think, ‘If the person who gave me the ring really did write this book for me, what are they saying’
And as you read a bit more you find stories (some of them are quite gripping), poems, wisdom, instructions, warnings and promises. And it begins to make sense. More than that, as you persevere, the words begin to leap out of the page at you. They are so relevant. They help me make sense of who I am, why I am here, where things have gone wrong, and what can be done to put things right. They tell me a little about the person who wrote this book, and how much they love me.
And you think, ‘This book was written for me. How is that possible? It is much older than me. How does the author know that about me?’
This is indeed a very precious book.
So you eagerly look for the third gift. You are now pretty certain that this third gift is from the person who gave you the ring and the book.
This gift if quite large. You open it, and inside you find:
3. A hamper. But all that is in this hamper is a bottle of wine, a loaf of bread and a note!
The wine is OK, and the bread is .. an alternative gift .. but the note is odd.
The note reads like this:
‘I gave you the other two gifts because I love you. They are both incredibly precious – but they cost me nothing. I have more rings, far more precious rings, than you can conceivably imagine.
You can wear the ring, examine the ring, be obsessed with the ring and forget me. Or you can delight in the ring and remember me.
You can put the book aside or study the book as you might study any other old book. Or you can read the book, trusting that I wrote it for you, and listen to me.
But this last gift is different.
It cost me everything. It cost my life and my death. It is the gift of real life, of love, of myself. And if you choose to receive my love, and to eat this bread and drink this wine in the spirit in which it was given, then – as the bread and wine come into you - I will come into you and change you. I will fill you with my love, I will become part of you and you will become part of me.